In the PR business, people are our greatest asset. In current times, and for those that lie ahead, this statement has never been truer. Our business, as an industry, has been, and will continue to be, severely affected by the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Many businesses may have survived the impact, or even gained new opportunities from this crisis, but more shockwaves are yet to come. When and for how long? That, we don’t know yet. According to the European Central Bank (4 june) “GDP in the eurozone is expected to fall by 13% for the second quarter (after a record decline of 3.8% in the first quarter) even though most countries have started to loosen their strict lockdowns. What will happen after that is subject to unprecedented uncertainty”.
Uncertainty isn’t good for the economy, as many investments are postponed and the release of new products and services are put on hold. This constitutes a threat to our industry, because it means less activity. On the other hand, uncertainty also increases risk, and that may as well create the need for specialized services in the fields of crisis communications. Besides that, companies may also feel the need to share how they successfully responded to the health pandemic and how they continued to operate their businesses. That will not only help to build corporate reputation, but will also contribute to bring a stimulus to employee engagement.
At ALL Comunicação, we’ve never worked so intensively, for such a long period of time, as we did during these past three months. The image of Aesop’s Grasshoper accompanied me through the endless working days during the lockdown period. Work hard, deliver value to your clients, be creative and timely, pursue all opportunities. This is what we did, and I firmly believe that because of this proactive attitude, we are now more resilient, focused and confident about the future, as uncertain as it still is.
We’ve learned a few lessons along the way, so here are few thoughts for my fellow PR professionals:
Value your people
During uncertain times, it’s even more important to show and reassure your team that you value them. Ultimately, we’re all in this together. This also means that you have to lead the way and set the pace, so that everyone follows in a synchronized way. On top of this, to further encourage people to work together as a team it’s essential to also zoom in on their individual needs. People are fatigued, afraid, mentally exhausted and unsure. Understanding that without a motivated team, the boat will drift or, even worse, sink, will keep you focussed and give you the ability to adapt to these changing times.
Trust and empower your teams so they feel responsible but supported, and better serve the agency’s clients: whether by anticipating their needs and offering them viable solutions, or responding quickly with the same level of quality. It is especially at times like these, that clients need to feel they can blindly trust and rely on their PR advisors.
Partner for growth
This is of paramount importance, not only with regards to the people that work with you, but also with your clients. Explore further synergies, go the extra mile, show them how your firm’s core competences can add value to their business especially during uncertain times. Give your clients the confidence that you can deliver and rise to the challenge.
Question your purpose
What kind of PR firm do you want to lead in the post-pandemic? What drives your people and how much are you willing to commit to in order to make a difference? Undoubtedly, the world has changed in 2020. It’s time to rethink our businesses – with strong values and principles – so we can adapt and thrive in this new world.
Diversify your client base
As with all crises, some industries and businesses are more affected than others. If you’re relying too much on one or two clients or a specific sector, you’ll get hit harder than most of your competitors, so it’s important to think about diversification. Diversification, however, doesn’t mean lack of identity. This reflexion means you’re thinking about the future of your business, and your team, because all the decisions you make affect your people.
Refresh your team’s skills
This is an excellent time to gain new competences, especially digital ones. The present is digital and it’s fundamental we get our PR and Digital Marketing skills up to date. These are essential for any post-pandemic communication strategy.
José Aguiar, Founding Partner ALL Comunicação