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Public Relations and COVID-19: Studies Surface Challenges, Changes and Optimism  

Public Relations and COVID-19 Studies Surface Challenges, Changes and Optimism

Public relations has wrestled with messaging during the COVID-19 pandemic, but studies also show it has improved business collaboration and internal communications

The events of 9/11 changed air travel. The recession of 2008 changed housing. The COVID-19 pandemic will certainly have lasting effects.

How will it change PR and communications? Several surveys offer a glimpse into the collective thinking of the public relations community – and that’s the theme for this week’s Unscripted Marketing Links (UML).

The UML is an occasional series on Saturday, I review three links, summarize the findings, wrap them insight, and present them here for your perusal. Click any image for a higher resolution.

>>> Looking for a B2B tech PR with expertise and execution? Give our services a try.

1. The top PR challenges during the Coronavirus

What has challenged public relations the most during the Coronavirus? According to a survey of PR professionals by Muck Rack, it’s been a loss in revenue and navigating the news cycle:

  • 54% cited a loss in clients or business revenue
  • 51% said placing coverage in the pandemic news cycle
  • 43% said finding relevant angles for pitches; and
  • 26% said the scaling back or elimination of PR resources

We are living in strange times and the Coronavirus has affected some shops differently. The Muck Rack survey highlights this in a question about PR budgets:

  • 44% expect the pandemic to “significantly affect” their budget
  • 38% say “it’s too soon to say”; and
  • 18% believe the effects won’t’ be significant

Separately, the report covers a broad range of questions, not just those related to COVID-19. One of the other statistics that stood out for me was around PR and social media:

  • 71% of PR pros say Twitter and LinkedIn will both be equally important to communication strategies in 2020 (see graphic).

About: The survey results were first published in mid-March 2020 – just a few days before the WHO declared the Coronavirus a pandemic. While Muck Rack doesn’t identify the number of respondents in the report, the company said in an email message there were 1,300 survey takers.

Read the full report here: State of PR 2020 via @MuckRack.

2. How PR has changed because of COVID-19

PR has become more valuable to organizations because (or in spite) of the pandemic, according to a survey by Ragan Communications, which publishes trade news, events, training, and consulting services. When asked to “describe the value PR will have” on their organization (or clients), “most respondents (77%) say they see increased value for the PR role” (see graphic).

One question that provided insight into how things have changed was about collaboration, especially with executive leadership. Half of the respondents (50%) said “collaboration with the C-suite (CEO, CHRO, CMO, CFO and COO) has increased” after the pandemic.

“PR pros have always been connectors and coordinators for their clients and organizations, but during the current crisis, collaboration has seen a heavy increase,” according to the report.

The findings around collaboration cause me to wonder if the pandemic will change the communications and PR reporting structure and organization.

For example, the 2020 JOTW Communications Survey (see slide 51) found 41% of communications professionals report to the CMO while 33% report to the CEO. The rest are spread out across the COO, HR, strategy and legal among other reporting structures.

However, if the events of 2020 are causing a lot of re-thinking in communications, perhaps the task organization deserves some consideration too.

On a whim, I started a poll on Twitter and asked that question. The conversation really took off. There will be a few hours left on voting when this post publishes. When the poll closes, the results will be displayed, but feel free to reply with a comment; I may turn this into a new post.

About: Ragan surveyed 315 PR professionals across organizations including corporations, agencies, non-profits and government. The report was published in late May 2020.

Read the full report here: The Future of the Role of the PR Pro via @RaganComms.

3. Changes but also optimism in the PR future

A survey by PRNews, another PR trade publication, found both changes but also optimism among PR professionals. In the case of change, for example, most respondents indicated internal communications had evolved:

  • 68% said the pace of internal comms was more frequent
  • 57% said internal comms is more personal and empathic post-pandemic; and
  • 45% said internal comms is getting more engagement

Frequent, personal and emphatic communications earns more engagement – there’s a lesson there even outside the Coronavirus. That’s good because most PR pros are fairly optimistic about the future when asked, “How will the PR industry rebound after the pandemic?”

Here’s how the answers stacked up (see graphic):

  • 37% said the PR industry will “roar back”
  • 51% say return to be about the same size
  • 20% say it will be “a vastly smaller industry”

About: The publication surveyed 200 executives from May 11-22 and published an article in the June 2020 edition of the PRNews.

Read the full report here: 88% of PR Pros See Industry Rebounding After Pandemic via @PRNews.

* * *

Some aspects of the business of PR may fade away and never return but that also presents an opportunity for existing aspects to evolve and new ideas to take root. For example, I was part of the B2B technology PR community in 2001, and it was decimated when the so-called tech bubble burst. Today, it’s arguably bigger than before, and with growth in categories such as cloud, cybersecurity and collaboration, it’s arguably more important than ever.

>>> Looking for an agency partner with the content chops to build a sound strategy and execute? Give our services a try.

If you enjoyed this post, you might also like:
Why You Should Absolutely, Positively NOT Cut Your Marketing and PR Budget Right Now

Image credits: Photo by Edwin Hooper on Unsplash; and respective studies

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