Aarti Shah 24 Apr 2020 // 12:13AM GMT
In the latest in our series of articles on the impact of Covid-19 on various practice areas and industry sectors, we interviewed technology PR leaders to get a sense of how they are responding to the pandemic.
Participating in the discussion:
Beth Haiken, EVP, Method Communications
Lou Hoffman, President/CEO, Hoffman Agency
Louie St. Claire, CEO, Harvard
Melissa Waggener Zorkin, global CEO / founder, WE Communications
Phil Nardone, President/CEO, PAN Communications
Richard Fogg, CEO, CCGroup
Robin Kim, Practice Head, Global Technology & Innovation, Ruder Finn
Todd Irwin, Managing Director California, Zeno Group
Wong Voal Voal, Managing Partner, IN.FOM
Going back to normal will not be the new normal
Aarti Shah: What has been the reputation impact on the tech sector?
Beth Haiken: Overall it’s been positive. As Vox noted recently, “Suddenly workplace collaboration tools ... that have existed for years as promising sideshows are mission-critical infrastructure keeping the economy functioning.” We’re seeing the impact in everything from grocery delivery to telemedicine to remote classrooms, and we’re seeing tech companies step up to donate medical supplies and retool to make critical items like ventilators. At the same time there are some trouble spots.
The move online hasn’t been seamless - Amazon deliveries are backed up for weeks; gig economy workers are calling on companies to provide masks and other protective equipment as well as hazard pay; with so many people on the internet, service has slowed in spots. But the bigger issue for tech companies is the inequality the pandemic has highlighted. For all their contributions, tech companies have done little to change that - but as the pandemic eases, I think people will be looking to them for new solutions.
Lou Hoffman: The tech sector has been squirming under society’s microscope during the past few years. I think it’s bigger than the Trump administration hammering Apple and the general tech industry to bring manufacturing jobs back to the States. So many goofs like Facebook’s privacy fiasco involving Cambridge Analytica have caused people to scrutinize the role that technology plays in their lives and the power of companies like Facebook, Amazon, etc.
Fast forward to today and the Covid-19 era— you see the tech sector once again serving as a visible force of good in society, the use of 3D printing for face shields, inventing ways to scale the making of ventilators and creating a process to sanitize masks so they can be used again. I just read The Silicon Valley Leadership Group, Bloom Energy and Stanford are spearheading an effort to repair and re-certify old and non-working ventilators. Closer to home, the City of Fremont (client), fast tracked the zoning permit process to less than a week (typically, around four months) which in turn allowed many tech/biotech companies to pivot their manufacturing to address the pandemic.
The point is, when the world returns to its axis – and it will – we’re going to see all facets of society including government officials take a more measured view of the tech sector. Perhaps they will recognize that while the God-like control in the hands of Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google (FANG) remains a worthy debate, there are thousands of other tech companies who aren’t household names, but contribute to everyday life.
Louie St. Claire: One thing for sure is that Covid-19 has killed the Techlash narrative, for now at least. As the narrative has broadened from public health emergency; to the huge hit on the global economy; to working into that horrible term a ‘new normal’, technology has been central to providing infrastructure, connectivity, business continuity and community. The response from companies providing these services has been robust in technology terms and respectful and restrained from a communications perspective. On the whole big tech has got this one right.
Melissa Waggener Zorkin: Many tech brands have stepped up to support their communities in crisis. They’re leaning into their purpose and values to identify practical, tangible ways they can be of service. There are a range of ways these actions are coming to life – most of which also demonstrate how quickly these brands can move to create actionable solutions with positive impact:
Microsoft created a 'Plasma Bot' to help recruit donors in effort to cure Covid-19.
Apple and Google are teaming up to help with infection tracking.
The Do Not Pay app is providing free services to help Americans file for unemployment.
Lyft’s ‘Essential Deliveries’ is allowing government agencies, local non-profits, businesses and healthcare organizations to request on-demand delivery of meals, groceries, life-sustaining medical supplies, hygiene products and home necessities — all delivered contact-free by Lyft drivers.
And while there have been missteps or notable absence of some tech companies, for the most part, this is a sector that is rising to the challenge, demonstrating leadership and responsibility in these challenging times.
Phil Nardone: The reputation of the tech sector is much stronger today than ever before. Leaders are stepping forward and leaning into more of the conversation around the business, customers and overall employee-first communications needed at a time like this. Consumers are starting to see the value of tech brands, as their everyday life changes and we adjust to this new norm. Whether that means basic communication through video conferencing, ecommerce and purchasing online or adjusting to remote work and all that goes with a seamless transition – tech has enabled it all.
From PAN’s perspective, we’ve seen technology brands weathering the storm fairly well. But it has taken a reset in how our clients think about their marketing and communications strategy. For some, their purpose during Covid-19 was immediately obvious, for example, how to better support the global supply chain, enable remote learning or provide online education on topics that were relevant to today’s needs. But for others, their path wasn’t quite as clear. We have seen a lot of clients take an education and insights-based approach in the overall market – focusing on what they can be doing to support and educate their customers, prospects and industry during this time. The tech industry as a whole is trying to be sensitive to what and how they communicate without halting communication altogether, because we know that’s not the solution and their brand matters now more than ever before.
From a business standpoint, we’ve seen a positive shift towards digital spend and a sharper focus on internal communications as our clients look to connect with stakeholders across the organization. Our tech portfolio felt a subtle impact on the emerging growth side, as these early-stage brands have limited capital and begin to prioritize different areas of business. This is polar opposite to most of the mid- and late-stage brands that have realized the importance (now more than ever) of increasing their marketing spend in a time of crisis and thinking about ways to build demand gen efforts with our teams.
Richard Fogg: From a tech sector reputational perspective, the impact of Covid-19 has been a classic case of two steps forward, one step back.
Tech companies have rendered physical distancing bearable by making video conferencing software available to the masses, the community’s biggest names are collaborating to enable contact tracing at unimaginable scale and the tech sector – especially the start-up scene - is being referenced by governments around the world as a key economic driver as countries try to climb out of recession.
No sooner had society started celebrating the contribution of the tech sector, the four horsemen of the techlash apocalypse – security, privacy, anti-trust and tax – rode in to remind us that the ‘techlash’ is real and will not be so easily sated.
It doesn’t matter that Zoom offered its service for use by schools around the world and reduced restrictions on its free accounts – which has seen daily meeting participants rocket from 10 million pre-Covid-19 to more than 200 million now, according to CCS Insight. The panic and moral outrage that accompanied revelations about Zoom’s security holes and potential privacy issues have wiped a great deal of the goodwill its philanthropic actions created. Politicians talk about a ‘new normal’, this is the tech communicator’s new normal writ large.
Robin Kim: Covid-19 doesn’t make any of the issues driving techlash less valid, but the momentum driving these issues is on pause at a time when the public is dependent on what tech has built – whether it’s Facebook for keeping in touch, Amazon or WeChat for online delivery, and more. Covid-19 and pandemics are also not going away, and tech solutions are already helping to monitor outbreaks, track clusters, and leverage telemedicine to treat people in lockdown. Forget move fast and break things: the tech sector in many ways has stepped up to move fast and fix things.
Todd Irwin: In the short term, it’s put most of the scrutiny of tech on hold. Some of that is simply because we have bigger problems. But some technology companies are helping the global effort and are assisting in various aspects of the pandemic, from keeping us connected in sheltering at home to helping design medical equipment to helping to crunch all the data that is going to help the medical community find answers to the most pressing questions of the day. Tech titan turned global health philanthropist Bill Gates has been a steady and insightful voice for many of us. And Tim Cook of Apple showing tech can be a global citizen.
Wong Voal Voal: By and large, the tech sector has been impacted by Covid-19, just like most other industry sectors. A key difference is that public trust of the tech sector has become even more pronounced during this period, especially when cloud services, devices, social media and digital have been pushed to the forefront as most office workers are now working remotely from their homes.
So, in the last few weeks, we have also seen many questions raised by industry watchers on the safety of videoconferencing services such as Zoom, or the role that social media companies have in stemming out fake news during this period where lives can really be threatened by it. Many security experts have also come forth to warn that cybercriminals do not stop even during a global pandemic.
Just like Rome, public trust is not built in a single day. I see two main types of tech players during this period – there is a group where today they are reaping the benefits of a long-term strategy in building public trust over the past few years. There is another group where they already have a big closet of skeletons on public trust of their products and services – they are now faced with even greater pressure from regulators, enterprise customers and even users today.
AS: What have been the communications priorities over the last few weeks?
BH: It changes every week. For the agency, initially it was logistics (how and when to set up a home office) and nuts and bolts (reminders about vacation time and family and sick leave policies). Then it was internal comms - do we have enough? What do we need to add, now that we’re all remote? Now we’re in a regular cadence.
LH: Over 10m people filed for unemployment in March and 6.65m of those filings came during the week that ended March 28. Talk about sobering stats.
Virtually all of the March unemployment filings are coming from service industries like hospitality, restaurants and travel. What does this have to do with tech? The overarching hit to the economy impacts everyone including our clients in the tech sector. And like everyone, they’re figuring things out as they go along since there’s no playbook for what to do when a pandemic strikes across the world and forces virtually everyone to stay at home.
The number one communications priority for our clients comes down to a simple message: we are acting in a way that puts fighting the coronavirus and the well-being of our employees our top priority and ahead of profits. Toward this end, communications isn’t a one-time event. Clients recognize that there needs to be a regular cadence, almost a mantra, in sharing the proof points that support the message.
As bad as things are, business marches on.
Since the cancellation of Mobile World Congress and subsequent conferences, our clients are looking for creative ways to bridge the gap in lead generation. More than the short-term decline of revenue, they see a barren sales pipeline. The end result is our communications are more geared these days to providing air cover for sales. In some cases, we’ve developed digital marketing campaigns specifically to generate sales leads.
LSC: On the first day of lockdown we initiated two things. The offer of regular calls to share experiences and best practice comms-wise across clients and to provide strong insights on what the industry is saying and doing. Two things have really stood out – and are pretty obvious – firstly all companies are getting close to their customers, in some cases changing entire sales teams to be customer-focused. Secondly, comms has never been more about good timing, when to talk and when to stay quiet has never been more critical.
MWZ: Communications is front and center, helping to drive business strategies. First up must be employee engagement, prioritizing the health and safety of people, and reinforcing new approaches to staying connected and working as teams. Having a clear and effective business continuity plan and bringing people along with frequent, clear and transparent communications is imperative, and must be rooted in a company’s purpose and values. Next up is taking a stance on how an organization can best help its communities, and this should be built out from a company’s superpowers, in order to be the most effective and long-standing.
PN: We’ve seen an overwhelming number of clients come to us for internal communications support. Like our agency, they see the value in addressing the concerns of their staff and sharing consistent updates on the pulse of the business. This has become a priority ahead of external communications in many cases.
In wake of in-person event cancellations and the pause of other demand-gen activities, we’ve seen several clients turning to virtual events as a new way to share knowledge and make connections with audiences that previously relied on face-to-face communication. To support these efforts, we’ve seen an increase in digital spend – targeting both current and newly evolved personas. Technology brands are getting creative with their marketing and communications efforts to accommodate the current needs and challenges we’re all facing.
Lastly, we’ve seen a big lift in content marketing and social media as brands look to firms like PAN to drive storytelling efforts and find better ways to curate these stories across media (in this case social). And our data & analytics capabilities have been utilized like never before as we support more listening and monitoring of the industry and parlay the trending topics and conversations that our clients are looking to join.
RF: The evolution of communications priorities in tech have been rapid. Initially, tech companies were mostly focused on ensuring resilience in their staffing and delivery capabilities, which led to a lot of focus on internal and customer communications. Shortly after, especially in smaller challenger brands, we saw a significant rise in marketing PR to drive lead generation efforts as many of the events around which the tech sector clusters were cancelled or postponed. Now, there are more meaningful communications around the efforts tech companies are making to help the world deal with Covid-19 – this might be free access to products for a limited time, shifts in manufacturing orientation etc.
RK: The biggest communication priority is ensuring that the physical, mental, emotional and financial well-being of employees and their families remains paramount. In parallel, it’s about ensuring the right information is out there, and doing so proactively. These are the hallmarks of trust.
TI: The priority areas of communications right now have been employee communications and customer communications, for obvious reasons. There’s a lot of content — both short- and long-form, digital and analog — being developed for these audiences.
WVV: The biggest challenge for communications practitioners today is the pace of development with this global pandemic. It was just a few weeks ago that we found out that the Tokyo Olympics has been postponed to 2021. Today, many industry watchers are starting to doubt if 2021 is even possible for Tokyo Olympics.
Communications leaders today are grappling with creating a delicate balance between prioritizing safety of employees, and supporting the business functions of their organizations, especially sales and marketing efforts.
We have also been working very closely with our clients in preparing for a new norm of communications during a pandemic, especially one where it looks like it is not likely to go away in the next few months. This involves rethinking about messaging, communications strategies and tactics, and embracing what could be the new normal post-Covid-19.
AS: What company(ies) has done an outstanding job with either its internal or external communications? Any companies that have misstepped? If so, any guidance on how they can recover?
BH: We have a saying in my family, “We’re all doing the best we can,” and I think that’s generally true. What we have seen though is that this situation is moving VERY quickly. Companies that are taking a day to respond to questions find they’re answering the wrong questions. In this situation if you’re not moving quickly you’re irrelevant. It’s also critical to be humble and clear: “Here’s what we know today, and here’s what we don’t know today.”
LH: I’ve kept an eye out for train wrecks, but have been pleasantly surprised that companies seem to be getting this right. CEOs are taking the lead in communicating empathy and prudent business steps.
Not exactly a company, but I think the City of Fremont has done a particularly good job with its communications. I’m not exactly an unbiased observer. Still, what I love about Fremont’s approach is its recognition that communications should have a seat at the table in working through the overall plan. Like any crisis, you can’t bifurcate actions/decisions from the communications. For example, the City has established a drive-thru Covid-19 testing center manned by the Fremont police to lessen the load on hospitals and other health-care facilities. As a second example, they’ve guided us to companies in Fremont who are making sacrifices to help combat the health-care crisis pursue media attention. This takes the right balance of sensitivity and shaping a story that works in today’s environment. You can see an example of this in this Reuters piece that includes a company called Evolve (ramping up test kits) and its CEO Nora King.
Back to missteps, I saw this LinkedIn post from Eric Savitz from Barron’s last week:
Many in our profession continue to be the gang that can’t shoot straight. Unfortunately, it ends up reflecting on all of us.
This doesn’t mean ignoring stories tied to Covid-19 or worse, going dark. Obviously journalists are writing about the pandemic and there’s only so many times they can rehash numbers. Still, if there was ever a time that called for researching pitches and thoughtful story lines, now is that time. For example, we landed a Q&A with our client Flex in Fortune last week around the manufacturing challenges of ramping up production of ventilators.
LSC: I think that how brands behave during these times is critical for long term brand equity and will have a huge impact as we come out of this. Crises tend to expose brands' communication approaches and those approaches are hard to change overnight and this is no exception. For example, UK mobile operators are used to fielding tough questions from consumers, businesses and regulators and therefore are comfortable in quietly providing critical infrastructure. Vodafone’s response to people burning 5G masts has been exemplary. Companies that don’t operate in that kind of scrutiny have maybe found it more difficult and therefore are more likely to misstep.
MWZ: I’m seeing many examples of companies rising to the challenges we all face. From the world’s most recognized brands to emerging businesses, we can definitely see the role businesses can play in solving big world problems. The brands that I think are doing the best right now are those that are keeping all their audiences updated with critical information in real-time and doing so with the same rigor whether it’s internal and external. Whether it comes to shifts in services, staffing, and most of all safety: people have a life or death need for accuracy, transparency and authenticity, and brands that recognize this and deliver are the ones that are rising above. I can think of a few that really stand out like:
- Microsoft was quick to move employees to working from home when Seattle became an early hotspot and continues to support them through initiatives like parental leave.
- The Patagonia CEO is reducing executive pay, and paying staff as well.
- McDonald’s is covering workers' salaries who must quarantine.
- Adobe is providing students and educators of higher-ed and K-12 institutional customers with free at-home access globally at no cost through the end of May.
- Pharma company AbbVie suspended its global patents for Kaletra to allow for generic copies to be made.
PN: Not to be self-serving in anyway – but one of our clients – Toast has done a remarkable job. Here’s a brand that lives in the restaurant industry with a POS software solution to SMBs in this sector. They were on a serious growth path and then this pandemic hit. They immediately throw support behind their customers with a ‘Rally for Restaurants’ program to help offset their losses with a gift card driven campaign. Once they realized the markets might not recover in time, the CEO and executive made the difficult decision to layoff and furlough a % of their workforce. This was done with care, compassion and transparency. You should check it out if you haven’t seen it already. Top of the game when it comes to an outstanding job!
The one theme I have noticed as I listen and learn from the Covid-19 events is that letting data and science drive your communications efforts is paramount. The myriad of messages out in the market right now regarding the pandemic are overwhelming, and brands that don’t lean on data to educate will get lost in the shuffle. Both Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx are great examples of leaders using data to inform external communications strategies.
We will take these learnings with us into the future
RF: In honesty, it’s too soon to tell. We’ve seen some tech companies make impressive commitments in retooling manufacturing capabilities to design and build critical equipment like ventilators, though the delivery of these assets now seems mired in red tape. Regular updates from these companies are critical in ensuring that transparency – and trust - is maintained.
RK: 3M and Flexport are two examples of companies who have stepped up to solve urgent global problems in delivering millions of face masks, and mobilizing employees and their broader ecosystem to do so. Bluescape was one of the first work-anywhere technology companies to take a point of view on the issues companies and employees would face when working at home. Strong communication is inherent to all of these examples.
Lowes’ Black Friday spring promotion feels out of step. One local news channel aptly captured employees’ concerns: “This is an epidemic where you need to stay home, not come out and go shopping. You don’t need to plant your tulips right now! You can wait!” There are also companies that are stoking demand for items that are out of stock, and/or touting themselves as do-gooders. They need to focus on solutions, not selling.
TI: I really like what Bloom Energy is doing. They saw the ventilator shortage problem, learned about ventilators in disrepair and then went about fixing them! They are a great example of tech’s roll-up-your-sleeves approach to solving problems.
Our clients are looking for creative ways to bridge the gap in lead generation
AS: What will be the PR business impact in the short and long term?
BH: In the short term, we’ll all see some pain. It’s not across the board and it’s not consistent, in that some industries experienced the first impacts while others are still trying to figure out what theirs will be, but as former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said Monday, “This is a huge, unprecedented, devastating hit.” If (as she expects) GDP drops 30% year on year in the second quarter, no one will be unscathed. In the long term, it’s harder to tell. On one hand, this is completely different from any other recession we’ve ever seen in that it’s not economically driven - but, with 10 million people filing unemployment claims in the first two weeks of March alone, there will be huge economic implications. One that we’re already seeing is cuts to newsrooms as advertising revenue shrinks. That’s an impact that could fundamentally change the world of media and PR.
LH: Let’s start with the short term.
I think we will see utter mayhem in the PR industry. As companies from every industry take a hit, they inevitably reduce or even eliminate non-mission critical spends. I wouldn’t want to be an agency dependent on startups. They’re about to crushed.
We’re bracing ourselves for the worse still to come. PR people are intrinsically optimistic which serves the profession well 99% of the time. Unfortunately, this is the outlier when that optimism will cloud judgement and cause people to delay actions.
Some (many?) agencies will go under. I also believe the holding companies will go through massive consolidation as a tool to offset huge losses. They going to size up a portfolio agency that’s lost say, 35% of its revenue and figure it’s better to feather the remaining 65% of revenue and the associated account teams into a larger entity. As for the rest of agency’s people and infrastructure, they’ll cut it loose.
And of course, there will be conventional layoffs. Because agencies don’t want to risk being perceived as insensitive during a health-care crisis, they’re hoping to push them out once they have air cover from other companies publicly communicating their layoffs. But I guarantee that the layoffs are in the books; just a matter of time before pulling the trigger. Every agency is dealing with a decline in revenue from clients cutting or eliminating budgets.
It’s possible that the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) for small businesses will provide some relief to agencies. We’ve applied for the program keeping in mind that the relief covers roughly two months. There’s no guarantee that the economy will be bouncing back in two or three months. Agencies that are owned by a larger entity won’t qualify for the PPP program.
Long term to borrow the tired trope, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” I do believe the PR industry is going to come out the other side (eventually) and be stronger because of it.
Clients will stick by agencies that they perceive as “must haves.” On the other hand, the crisis will weed out the agencies that don’t deliver a quality product, a positive for the long-term health of the industry. I also think that the crisis will end up accelerating the diversification of campaigns into owned media and paid media, again from the premium on lead-gen work. Last, executives will gain a renewed appreciation for the importance of communications and telling their stories.
LSC: Short term impact I would say between 20-30% on revenues this year across the tech PR space would see us get off lightly. I think long term, this will force all companies to add more rigor to what they do and don’t need. The new mantra will be ‘if we don’t need it, don’t do it’.
MWZ: While always evolving, without a doubt the PR world will experience change in some of the most extraordinary and fundamental ways yet. Commitments to employee engagement, executive communications, purposeful leadership, and reaching consumers in new ways are here forever. In the short term we are adapting our work in rapid-fire ways, clearly relying on technology to do our work and reach all audiences virtually. Companies must adapt to consumer changes, while staying true to their purpose, which will be an important balance. The short-term crisis responsiveness we’ve seen will need to evolve to future readiness, and we’ve seen companies already reinventing what being ready means, and how to focus on the most important priorities. The new muscles many companies are exercising will also become part of who they are: sustaining their commitments to contributing some of their superpowers to help the world in an ongoing way. We will take these learnings with us into the future, even when we return to being able to shake hands.
PN: We are looking at a huge opportunity as we move into the rebound phase of the pandemic. PR will play a critical role in both the short-term and long-term recovery for brands coming out of the Covid-19 era. In the short-term, storytelling will support brands looking to share successes and moments that matter in the market. Most companies have shifted their focus to make a difference and it’s important for PR to help communicate those stories.
The voice of the customer will remain front and center at all stages of the business. What shifts is tone, sentiment and the overall approach you take in any customer experience framework. But marketers are seeing how their customer can support the brand and comms program to help solidify credibility, business value and overall long-term advocacy.
Data and analytics will continue to be crucial because they allow us as PR professionals to listen and respond to industry conversations and sentiment in real time. They also allow marketers to become more empathetic by providing insight into customer needs during a time when falling tone deaf to the challenges everyone is facing is not an option.
Most importantly, Covid-19 has fundamentally changed the way brands approach PR. Strategies have been adjusted and yesterday’s KPIs are out the window. Brands are now leaning more on an integrated approach to PR in order to look at their programs holistically – incorporating paid and social with their earned media efforts as a way to ensure the appropriate message is shared consistently across every channel.
RF: Let’s be clear - the impact of Covid-19 on tech PR will be negative in the short term. We don’t get a ‘free pass’ because many of our clients could play important roles in helping the world get back to business as usual.
We’re planning on a short-term decline in overall tech PR investment. The pandemic will impact funding rounds. It will further draw-out long and complex buying cycles. It will make finance departments more reticent to invest in marketing, as has been the case in most recessions. There will, of course, be sectors that buck this trend– but from a business planning perspective we expect the impact to last into 2021.
But tech is a sector that is constantly evolving and renewing. It will be fascinating to see which sectors emerge as a result of this crisis. Innovation in smart buildings, for example, may be critical in driving a faster and more secure return to normality. The boom in video conferencing may remove the barriers to ushering in a new generation of collaboration technologies. Changes in financial habits may speed up the adoption of alternative currencies and banking methods. I have no doubt that in the medium- and long-term tech, and tech PR, will bounce back bigger and better than ever before.
RK: Ruder Finn has always been about what’s next, and we’re looking at all of this with our clients. Going back to normal will not be the new normal. The trend toward virtual agencies and distributed teams will only accelerate. So will the use of analytics and other technologies that will enable PR to move faster and more nimbly at scale. We’ve seen companies transform themselves overnight to solve big problems, drive leadership, empower employees, engage stakeholders differently, or simply survive. Speed is everything. It will be more so in a post-Covid world.
TI: In the short term, a number of companies are rightfully expanding the role of communications to include more employee and customer communications. We’re seeing companies that have valuable solutions to today’s challenges lean into sharing their stories even more across all channels in authentic, informative and helpful ways. For some, that is helping the newly work-from-home employee protect important corporate data. For others, it’s helping parents with software and tools to pick up their new role as teacher. Moreover, its seeing how they can help with donations to essential workforce in some way or reconfigure manufacturing lines to produce PPE. Tactically we are seeing more work shift to digital, especially with companies that turned their physical events into virtual ones.
Long term, the communications contribution to the larger and most essential business and societal issues of the day will continue to be even more important. I’m hopeful that more companies in the tech space will continue to embrace a more holistic approach to their communications. Too often tech PR is mostly – if not solely for some – about product sales and company valuation. While important, we also need to show that communications can help companies lead on behalf of myriad stakeholders.
Finally, one of the important reminders – and a lasting impact – of the pandemic from a communications perspective is how interconnected but interdependent we all are. Moreover, our communications priorities should reflect that. It remains to be seen how the pandemic changes our values, but we’re already seeing evidence we are all re-evaluating what matters most. Regardless, as communicators we will be on the front lines of helping our companies and clients define and pivot to the new – and yet unknown - normal.
WVV: Most PR agency heads that we have spoken to have seen a drop in revenue due to cancelled projects, especially when it related to events and conferences. Many of my peers have also shared that marketing and communications budget cuts from clients have also adversely affected them.
What’s not clear is the long term impact of this global pandemic on the PR business. At IN.FOM, we are already starting to plan out on how this global pandemic may create disruptions that would be irreversible to the communications industry. Ultimately, we should expect a step change in business models and services when this whole pandemic has been blown over.
Other articles in this series:
Covid-19: What it means for employee communications
Covid-19: What it means for corporate reputation
Covid-19: What it means for public affairs
Covid-19: What it means for travel PR
Covid-19: What it means for consumer marketing
Covid-19: What it means for financial services PR
Covid-19: What it means for capital markets communications
Covid-19: What it means for corporate purpose
Covid-19: What it means for healthcare PR
Covid-19: What it means for entertainment PR