Mankind is facing an unprecedented COVID-19 crisis which threatens the very existence of the human race. We are experiencing setbacks but are confident that a cure is not far away. Almost every country is in lockdown since March, and because of that, the global market is in doldrums and entering a state of recession. Businesses are facing huge losses and are forced to curb their expenses in various ways.
Most of the businesses are adopting the ‘wait and watch’ approach which seems to be the most logical at this juncture. The same is true even for a service-led industry like Public Relations (PR).
Let’s first analyse the impact of COVID-19 on the PR industry and the alternative approach which now seems to be risky, but in the long run, can give a profitable return.
Challenges faced by the PR industry
With the global market observing a slowdown, most of the industries are trying to survive. The PR industry is no exception. We all know that the PR and media industries go hand in hand. Due to the slowdown, people are reluctant to buy newspapers even if the WHO guidelines explicitly mention that there is no chance of contracting the virus from printed newspapers.
Most of the people are in a panic mode and because of that, the sale of newspapers has declined drastically. Most sections of the media, barring a few, are focusing only on the pandemic and this has impacted client coverage.
Clients have withdrawn their proactiveness towards continuing PR activities and most of them have put their PR partnerships on hold until the lockdown is called off. This creates a stalling scenario in the industry and most of the experts are not certain when this will go back to normal.
The lockdown has also impacted product launches and other promotional or media events where PR teams play an important role. Now, with all the concerns and uncertainties in mind, should a company go ahead with the PR plan or should they just hold on for a bit? Let us look deeper
The indispensability of Public Relations
We all know that keeping a connection with the masses always bears fruit and is essential for any business. Having created a longer-lasting brand recall among the public helps in the marketing funnel at all stages and influences the buying decision-making. The pandemic has created such a negative environment around people that they are scared to trust anything new or unknown.
A good promotional strategy can create an image of positivity and reliability around the brand so that, as soon as the situation improves, people can trust the brand blindly. Unfortunately, most of the companies are reluctant to give this a thought.
They are thinking PR is not an essential service they can afford right now even if the budget that goes into it is just a fraction of the marketing and advertising budget.
The situation is more favourable for startups and small businesses. If they are willing to take a bit of risk, they can get the maximum exposure because the big players are taking a back seat.
Quite often, small and medium enterprises can increase their sales and gain new customers if they strategise properly and promote them efficiently. Also, a lot of people are working from home and will continue doing so in the near future.
Outdoor advertisings, which cost a fortune to any company, are getting irrelevant for the time being. If we can take out only 40 percent of those budgets and invest it in PR then we can get similar branding exposure, if not more. The situation is providing a level playing field for both small and medium enterprises.
Striking a balance between risk and safety
We all are familiar with the term ‘no risk, no gain’. These are tough times for businesses that need to float and for that, they need to prioritise their services. But, this is also the time to grab the market by the scruff of the neck and thrive.
We can take the example of Facebook, General Electric, IBM, Disney, etc, which all started during the recession and now have become the industry leaders. As far as PR is concerned, most companies think that it is a luxury right now but all the indications tell us that with the proper use of PR strategy, a company can grow exponentially and with the market situation slowly heading towards normalcy, PR strategies will give the companies the much-needed boost.
Takeaways for the clients
We suggest clients be proactive rather than reactive. PR can create such a buzz such that people will recall your brand whenever they want anything that you provide. Also, PR will give you the momentum to get back to business when normalcy resumes.
Let us be heard when most of the big market players are keeping mum. Let us be the ones who dare to sail in the rough storm and make the sea our own. With the right initiative and proper publicity, we can achieve this easily. PR will play a major role here as people need to know the brand properly.
While others think that PR is a luxury, let us use the power of media and publicity to make your business boom.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)
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