2020 is the year in which all things known to us have been and will be challenged and all things we do will never be the same. As the social distancing becomes the new normal, and wearing a mask comes as wearing a black dress or a white shirt for all occasions, people tend to think that the upcoming period will bring nothing but trouble. Is this a challenge for the humans to be virtually close, yet physically distant in times of distress?
We’ve been into the year 2020 for a little more than a half, and yet, we have stood witness to pandemic, fires, deaths, floods, elections, demonstrations, explosions…the list goes on and on. It is safe to say that people are scared of what lies ahead. With all the world coming to a halt, with the sky-rocketing numbers of victims of pandemic, and the ever-increasing pressure on the medical system and economy, how will this affect the world of marketing and public relations? How will we communicate with clients, manage daily work?
First of all, we, PR people, are highly adjustable. We have learnt that we can live without many things, primarily without seeing each other in person. With millions of people working from home, as many (crucial!) others are struggling to do their jobs in terms of hazard and shortages, technology once more proved to be more than practical, if not vital.
Yes, all the work can be done online
Luckily, we realized that ALL the work can be done online. We needed a pandemic to teach us that all those lengthy and cumbersome meetings with clients could have been one e-mail or a chat in Microsoft separate teams. By mentioning team members and introducing guests in the teams, we managed to make the business communication more practical and less businessy making ourselves more comfortable at the same time. Through various platforms we have worked as a team on documents and managed to finalize them without sending loads of emails and making numerous calls. We realized that we are absolutely able to function remotely, even be more productive than in the office. We recognized the fact that it is easier to organize one’s time when one knows the amount of work to be done. It is sometimes easier to communicate during working hours and sometimes outside them when you see that the colleague that you so desperately need to finish that project is available and online. Thus, in synchronicity with business calendar (and in synchronicity with our personal calendar of needs!), we managed to raise the bar when it comes to easier communication within the teams and faster reaction of all the members. With intuitive platforms (Wiki, Post, File options in Teams), the level of collaboration went overboard and reached an ever sky-high.
Different type of management
There were a lot of disbelievers when it came to working from home, both in terms of work organization, individual productivity as well as psychological barriers of employees. All those doubting Thomases found it impossible to generate an idea, construct a strategy, come up with a solution to a business challenge, resolve a problem without sitting face to face and going over the issues for hours and days. But practice proved them wrong. Naturally, work from home calls for another type of management, more goal-oriented and focused on results, but as long as you deliver, who cares where you are located while working?! Some large companies postponed the date for return to office, some opened and then closed their outlets, and yet, some even decided to let their employees decide whether they would work from home or office, even after the pandemic ends as long as they feel more relaxed and productive.
In the PR arena where I come from, we just switched the button to online and that button is now always on. We managed to organize and follow up on all campaigns and projects anticipated for the period. We even managed to pull off virtually the event planned way ahead before the pandemic broke out. We made an online meetup, even dressed up for the occasion and succeeded in making both sides happy, the corporate and the client one.
Listen. Communicate. Repeat.
Now, the only trouble is planning ahead, to be honest. It is very difficult to project budgets, to anticipate the beat of the pulse of the public, the reactions of the people as they change in stressful situations. And this one surely is, maybe the first one felt in all corners of the world.
But, let’s not be so hard on ourselves, PR folks, because the truth is that no one knows the right answers to what to do right now. No one knows what course the main course will be. Yet, there are a couple of things that work for sure. As we are all adapting quickly to a new situation, it is always good to go with humanity. Listening always works. Empathy always works, especially now more than ever. Listen to your clients, listen to your team members. Communicate, never get tired of communicating and try to find the most creative ways to do it, be inventive with communication platforms, keep all conversation tabs open, maintain the dialogue and don’t forget the traditional communication styles as some people don’t change their habits.
“You either win or learn.”
And, on a less professional side (but a PR person is always a PR person, no matter when and where), let’s try to improve ourselves and make the best of this situation. As Mandela said, you either win or learn. Let’s learn. Let’s acquire new knowledge. In this online world, the answer again is technology.
Having a “tech eye” and nurturing IT skills have always been valuable and advantageous, living in a pandemic or not, but now, it can be a “lifesaving belt”. With all the businesses, big and small, closing outlets and going online, it is useful to have the coding skills to develop sites, manage and update them. Or to develop apps, for that matter, or put them to some extra use, as many of those have been created to follow health parameters or to provide some contents that will dissuade people from being anxious, stressful, in panic.
Maybe this is a good place to mention our fellow digital marketers who have been working around the clock since the outbreak of the pandemic to inform us on our new shop being closed or re-opened, or on the new shipping service that is more trustworthy. Therefore, it is good to invest your time into understanding how digital marketing works and maybe explore how you can make use of digital marketing tools to further develop and strengthen your business.
Microsoft has committed to helping 25 million people acquire digital skills in those Covid times – if you are a job seeker, an NGO, or a corporation – Microsoft has something to offer for all those who want to develop tech-based careers, regardless of their age, educational background and ability. We all can strive to be better – both for ourselves and the others. Isn’t that enough?