Silent shift in the PR industry. Alone but together

May 27, 2020



Plenty of time these days, so I started wondering what the creative industries are doing; to do not lose track of reality, I talked to some of my PR colleagues from abroad, taking the pulse from the distance. Some of them are doing well – they work for several clients that need to reassure their audiences about the safety of their products. Some of them are not, they are losing business. Anyhow, we all need to adapt.

Adapting means shifting perspective for the PR industry. Less work, less budget spent. Or same budget, but redirected. Colleagues from Germany, from Finland, from Luxembourg stated that they are actually shifting from external to internal communication.

But what about new business? Signals are that networking groups have closed in the UK and not only, meetings have been cancelled – we only have online calls from day to day until further notice – industry events of all kind have been postponed. Nothing to put your hands on, new clients section froze. If business is still stable these days, how do you grow then?

Simple, some of us own the agencies that we have. What does that mean? Dynamics of the market? They don’t scare us! Losing clients? Not in your dreams! We adapt! We are resilient! We have the power to learn on the go and to adjust our businesses. That’s what entrepreneurs do all over the world now, being in the communication industry or not!

Mikko Sillanpää, Managing Director at Harkonsalo & Vesa, shares his experience with the agency he manages in Helsinki, Finland. Not very far from this black scenario that we are leaving is taking over a company with debts. Somehow, he did find a way to bring it up and to survive and position the agency on a global market. What he recommends now:

“Besides obvious cutting down all costs, the question is very difficult to answer, but here are some my thoughts and experiences, perhaps these have some value (or not) for you. I started to map out expenses by type. As personnel is the only key for survival of the consulting business, I started to change the cost structure. I would do everything possible to defend the personnel costs and get rid of everything else possible.”

In Spain, one of the most affected countries by COVID-19, professionals adapt bravely to the new situation. Luis Gonzalez, Partner & Strategic Adviser at Alana Consultores, in Madrid, says: “We are adapting well to the new situation as we have been working in the last two years under a permanent crisis due to a changing environment; some client loses and wins, moving into a new office, an M&A process with a larger agency, Euromedia, staff changes, etc. So, Alana was well prepared to work online and deliver good value to our clients’ communication and marketing activities”.

From South to North and East to West, no matter where we are on the globe, the impact of this unexpected situation is just the same. Nicole Capper, Managing Director of MANGO-OMC, South Africa share with us her perspective: “As a global population, we are all facing unprecedented times. Many of us are lucky enough to be able to work remotely, to utilise technology in the most positive way possible and to assist one another to stay calm, to stay financially viable and to stay informed. It is true that we are facing a grave emergency. But if we act together, if we act now, and if we act decisively, we will overcome it.”

At the heart of Europe, in Hamburg, Germany, colleagues found amplified the usage of the tools that they already had implemented. Karsten Hoppe, Founder & CEO, TDUB Kommunikationsberatung showcases their story in the middle of the crisis:

“Our DNA is quite digital – both from a clients perspective, but also regarding the communication tools we use in everyday work. So now that the whole company switched to homeoffice business after only a few bumps everything works well with Slack, Bluejeans, VPN, VoIP, smartphones, laptops. Of course, we all would wish to meet in real life from time to time – but that’s how it goes. Crises for PR agencies always bear risks – more from a business angle – but also chances – more from a communications perspective. Now’s the time for new strategies and approaches. Widen your view and adapt your targets to the new situation.”

In the USA, things are just going swirling. Kieran Powell, Executive Vice President, Channel V Media informs us about the current status quo: “The news cycle right now is focusing almost 80% on coronavirus, but we are already seeing this change. In the next couple of weeks we will start to see reporters return to their regular beats. Coronavirus will still be an issue, but it will be getting less air time. When firms manage their clients and events they can control, they are less susceptible to events that they can’t control such as the coronavirus.”

Blue Focus, an agency based on China, has shared a very insightful research on how the marketing trends will reshape during and post-coronavirus. The perspective is rather optimistic: “Brands remain resilient, confident and await recovery.” After the coronavirus communication has swallowed up all the mediascape, real-time attention and the online-related sectors are the ones where our interest should be manifested. According to their conclusions “Diversity brings safety”. And remember, China is where the COVID-19 timeline started so they might be just right with that.

What do I think? We are living hard times with an unfeeling closure; we have no possibility to make any plans and our known structures are falling down. But new ones are coming up, embracing the new wind of digitalization. In this context, when the numbers broadcasted everyday are living us in deep silence, we have no option than to keep going, to keep doing what we know how to do the best, to keep our sanity. After mourning, we need to get back to whatever normal will mean, we will need to find a way. As my grandmother told me:
“Do not lose courage. All will be well.”

By Valeria Tudor, Founder & Owner of The House PR Agency, Romania

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