Cole McKeon
Cole McKeon

For many professionals in the sector, COVID-19 struck like an asteroid.

With the global lockdown of a dozen or so industries, businesses immediately cut back on everything but the most essential running costs. It wasn’t just the spring cleaning the PR industry was expecting—many capable professionals were sent to the job boards with little chance of actually finding work.

But all is not grim! As long as people can talk, or in any shape and form communicate, the PR industry will exist. In fact, businesses need to communicate with their customers, stakeholders and the global market now more than ever.

While COVID has forced the PR industry to evolve rapidly, the direction the industry is moving in has remained more or less the same. Those who embraced innovation prior to 2020 hit the ground running during the pandemic.

Everybody else should hurry up and catch up, before the train of progress gets too far ahead.

Embrace digitalization

Traditional media was barely hanging in there as digital channels took over in the last decade. After COVID, there’s only one way things can go forward. Technology helped us stay informed and remain sane when locked at home.

In 2020, digital media is the standard method of communication. Radio, television and streaming are holding up well, but printed media is on the verge of extinction.

Therefore, it’s obvious that new content has to focus on digital channels first. Campaigns need to be redesigned from the core up, in order to make use of tools provided by social media and the Internet as a whole.

As usual, original content and impactful storytelling are needed to grab and keep the attention of the consumer, who’s overwhelmed by the sheer amount of media outlets available. However, it’s insight into your key audiences and precise targeting that will give you the best chance of rising above the noise and delivering your message effectively.

This, of course, can only be achieved through employing data-driven decisions. However, spending your whole day sifting through publications, making analysis and taking notes won’t get you a step closer to reaching your market.

PR specialists need to embrace automation and entrust the data crunching and report generation to ever more sophisticated market monitoring suites and analytics software, like Covered Press. Leave the legwork to the computers and focus on the people factor, which has risen as a main factor for trust.

Teamwork and Integration

Faced with unprecedented disruption, businesses require multi-faceted specialists who can dance in more than one pair of shoes in order to prove their value.

Paid media has typically been outside the scope of PR campaigns. Today, PR specialists need to acquire additional skills in content marketing, SEO and lead acquisition, and coordinate their efforts with other departments in order to represent brands effectively.

PR should play a critical role when planning marketing campaigns, website assets and online advertising efforts to ensure they are not too aggressive, use the appropriate language and deliver the right message.

Influencer Marketing vs Owned Media

Influencers continue to be a strong mechanic to reach key audiences of your client’s businesses. With traditional media continuing to lose trust with consumers, establishing strong working relationships with the key influencers in your industry is a must.

That said, PR specialists need to be vigilant and ensure the influencers they work with share the same values and philosophies as the brands they promote. Influence can go both ways and since these individuals’ actions are largely out of your control, proper selection is key.

Setting up comprehensive market monitoring systems and alerts is an efficient way to keep an eye on online conversations and intervene as is appropriate.

Businesses who invested in developing their own communities and platforms reaped the benefits after the virus struck. These channels proved incredibly effective for keeping customers and stakeholders in the loop, delivering vital information and aiding relief efforts.

Trust, Transparency and Ethics

There’s hardly a bigger challenge to any brand in today’s media environment than remaining authentic and completely honest with its customers.

We’re living in incredibly sensitive times. The public wants and needs to see companies thinking more about the people and less about the profit.

Yes, businesses are facing global collapse and every dollar is sacred. However, shamelessly pushing products and services on people who are worrying about their loved ones won’t get you closer to the goal. The slightest slip can ruin a brand's reputation, which took years to build. It’s our job to make sure that doesn’t happen.

With the rise of blogging and social media as news and information delivery platforms, the amount of false information hitting our screens has skyrocketed. Now with COVID, the public faces increasing difficulty to verify data and facts and has to go above and beyond checking any claims made on the Internet.

PR teams have to enforce tight control over the authenticity of information in every piece of content released by the brand. This expands to content production teams, marketing campaigns, advertisements, email funnels and broadcasts, outreach efforts, press releases, etc.

All communication needs to uphold stringent ethical standards and make sure the brand's values are clearly expressed. Compassion and willingness to help should be demonstrated at every step.

Going forward

We have no accurate prediction for when and how the global pandemic will wear off. As we approach the colder part of 2020, healthcare officials are warning of a second wave of COVID-19 striking the population.

Work from home and telecommuting will become the standard for every industry where applicable. We’re more connected and disconnected at the same time. The cloud is more than capable of keeping the information flowing. However, the physical distancing may prove a significant challenge.

PR specialists have a tough job ahead of them, keeping the conversation going between businesses and customers. This makes tact, diplomacy and a talent for saying the right thing at the right time ever more important.


Cole McKeon is president of Revealize Inc., which specializes in developing and designing websites and mobile applications for both IOS and Android devices.