What Does PR Look Like Post-Pandemic?
By Lindsay Priester, President, Green Light Communications
Slowly, but surely, the United States is starting to return to some form of normalcy after a year of fear, heartbreak, monotony, masks, Uber Eats, pivots and so much more. While we're all anxious to leave this pandemic behind us, some things will be forever changed for almost everyone, both in business and in our personal lives.
Working in public relations (and especially owning a PR business) during a pandemic was a huge learning experience. I started Green Light on Feb. 1, 2019. When we celebrated our first anniversary a year later, I was so excited and hopeful. Business owners of any kind know that first year is all about survival. It's about getting clients, figuring out taxes, managing stress... all of the things. So on Feb. 1, 2020 I breathed a sigh of relief for a successful first year and looked forward to beginning the second year in a place of calm from the experience gained over the last year.
Andddd then a pandemic hit.
While certain parts of PR are relatively easy to do without face-to-face interaction, a huge component of PR is engaging with people (whether clients, media or colleagues) in REAL LIFE. Here are a few thoughts on what PR looks like on the other side of COVID-19.
Virtual events are here to stay. Events are huge part of PR, whether that's holding a press conference, hosting a grand opening or putting together a product launch or gala. When these in-person events were no longer an option, PR agencies/brands had to pivot and pivot quickly. Virtual events soon became the norm and while I think we all could use a break from them (Zoom fatigue is real!), they aren't going anywhere. Over the last year, we've figured out how to host virtual events successfully. We've worked out the kinks, we've developed ways to make them engaging and interactive AND (here's the big one), we've found that they were often better attended than their in-person counterparts. Whether it's a wine tasting from the comfort of your own couch or just the ability to turn off the camera, virtual events take the pressure off.
BUT in-person networking will be more popular than ever. While many client events may stay virtual, networking with fellow PR pros will return to in-person quickly. I work for myself, so while I especially value time with my peers to talk shop, every person I've spoken to in the industry has missed the day-to-day interaction with their co-workers and PR pals. PR is constantly listed as one of the most stressful careers and having a crew to vent to who actually get it is priceless. There will be many glasses of wine shared among publicists in the next few months.
Reporters and publicists will have stronger relationships than ever. When the pandemic first began, it was the ONLY thing being covered in the news (and rightfully so). Our clients' sale or product launch or achievement just wasn't important in comparison, so publicists had to take a step back and find other ways to keep business going. Every PR pro I know understood this and respected journalists and their need to focus on the pandemic by not pitching unrelated news. Once it was clear the pandemic wasn't going anywhere any time soon, there became some white space for other stories to be shared. Journalists reached out to me and let me know they were looking for stories and appreciated the distance that was given to them initially. There was a mutual feeling of respect for both of our jobs and that will only continue.
Social media will continue to be king and it will be interactive. It's obvious that social media was huge before the pandemic, but as people had more time on their hands and in-person interaction wasn't an option, it THRIVED during the last year. The big difference going forward is that most social media and digital content will take an interactive format. No longer will brands just throw up a post, boost it and hope for engagement. The pandemic showed the value of relationships and how important connecting with a brand/company/person is. This is why Clubhouse and Instagram Lives both took off over the last year. Those and other interactive forms of social media will lead the way now and in the future.