Maja Pawinska Sims 17 Nov 2020 // 12:23PM GMT
LONDON — The PRCA’s Global Covid-19 Communications Taskforce has published a report of lessons from the pandemic, with insights from 75 industry leaders across 23 countries.
The guide, How to recover fast from the pandemic, has been spearheaded by taskforce chair and Lansons co-founder and chief executive Tony Langham to showcase communications best practice during the crisis, and how comms can support businesses and organisations in recovery.
Key themes of the report include; the role of communications in creating a better world, the importance of communications counsel for business, and the industry’s impact on people and culture.
Langham said he hoped the report would “make a contribution to our industry by giving a structure to think about the future," and if communications professionals “recognise the opportunity we currently have, we could change our industry, and what we do, forever and for the better.”
There are four key takeaways from the report, according to Langham, the first of which is to collaborate internally and take external advice: “We don’t need to be told again that these times are unprecedented, so it is incumbent on everyone responsible for major decisions to seek help. This is a time for collaborative senior leadership teams and judicious use of external advisers. It is not a time for reclusive managers taking decisions in private.”
The second takeaway is to recognise that this moment is unique for business and the communications industry and could be a major opportunity for significant and change that should not be wasted. Omnicom’s international president of growth and development David Gallagher is quoted as saying: “Whatever you were before will be different.”
The third theme is related to people, employees and purpose, with Langham saying: “Organisations need to take their employees with them during these times of change, so it is vital that people believe in their employer. Our organisations need to have a clear purpose and live it – and management decisions need to make sense within the corporate story, internally as well as externally.”
On this point, Neil Hedges of Headland adds: “The real winners will be those agencies that have sustained their culture through thick and thin.”
The fourth major strand of the report is that organisations needs to understand the importance of trust and reputation and “send the right signals in the visible day-to-day decisions it takes. This means that all decisions, particularly the small ones, need to be consistent with the bigger picture of change and longer-term vision,” said Langham, with Hill + Knowlton Strategies’ UK CEO Simon Whitehead adding: “We need to be very clear what we stand for, our very purpose.”
The report strikes a distinctly hopeful note, with contributions including Professor John Doorley of Elon University in North Carolina saying this “is one of the greatest opportunities of all time for communications – don’t mess it up”; Uwe Wacher of Klenk & Hoursch, who says “Companies that invest in technology and who manage culture change will be the winners’; FleishmanHillard’s Jim Donaldson stating “It’s time for creativity in PR to take front and centre stage; Amy Binder of RF Binder saying “Purpose-led thinking and quick innovation are critical to recovering fast from the pandemic”; and Richard Tsang of SPRG, who says: “In this bold new world there still remain endless possibilities.”
Langham said: “Reading contributions from 23 different countries, you’ll be struck by the spirit of positivity that runs through the report. So many of us want to be part of improving the world. My strongest recommendation is that you set three hours aside and read all 18,000 words. I found that I learned something from every contribution and I’m deeply grateful to all our colleagues around the world who’ve helped create this fitting legacy for the taskforce.”
The taskforce was launched in March this year to provide practical support to public relations professionals during the pandemic. It has so far delivered 40 free advice sessions and hosted nine free webinars viewed by more than 1,500 practitioners.
PRCA director general Francis Ingham said: “Under Tony’s leadership, the taskforce has embodied the collaborative spirit that has defined our industry’s efforts to address the impact of the pandemic. This extensive new report is a powerful example of what PR professionals around the world can achieve when they come together to face a common challenge.”