Threat or Transformation? Positive learnings in disruptive times

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Contributed by Sophie Toh, Founder of TOH, a leading consumer communications group, part of the PRCO Group.

These are uncertain days. In times of crisis, it is easy to cling to familiar and tried and tested working methods that produce known results. However, the impact of Covid-19 has already disrupted our working practice, our strategies and in some instances, our contract clauses, forcing us to re-look at what just a few weeks ago, was seemingly ‘normal’.

Not everything has to be negative. Whilst the impact on the global economy, societies and our PR industry is not clear and is far from resolved, we are definitely seeing challenges to a few key long-held industry beliefs.  If looked at with an open mindset, each has a valuable and possibly transformative effect on the way that we interact with, and best support our clients.  And in challenging hours, that’s one positive thought to inspire us.

Belief one: F2F is best:

Could this be the end of the three hour ‘chemistry’ meeting, the last order on the business lunch? The crisis has forced us into the virtual world of video calls, and once we are comfortable hanging out here, we can adapt our perception that human contact is the way to build trust and rapport.

Belief two: Consultancy comes for free:

We have been able to demonstrate our strategic abilities in the past few weeks as never before, consulting clients around the clock on their strategic direction, crisis response techniques and internal PR messaging. Our credibility and proven value as consultants can offer us scope to offer a more balanced approach to how we structure retainers and billable hours to include both consultancy and tactical delivery.

Belief three: Remote working isn’t remotely effective:

With ‘WFH’ a mandatory requirement in some markets, team cohesion is challenged. However, employers are now having to equip their workforce for meaningful remote working, with the outcome that employees feel trusted and empowered not to be tethered to their desk, resetting our approach to how we structure our working environments and how we build team spirit remotely.

Belief three: Contracts are binding:

With clients in crisis, contracts and scopes of work are having to be re-thought, moving from campaign to crisis in a day. Contracts that are cumbersome and restrictive will not stand up – meaning built in crisis or ‘holding’ clauses will win out in testing times.

Belief four: Social media must sell:

In a time of stark reality, responsible and kind social media approaches are paramount. I predict that brands will adopt their strategies towards a softer, more fact-based content strategy, to match the mood of their consumers. The era of ‘insta-bragging’ may well be behind us as we move towards truth and transparency.

Belief five: material incentives work best

Anxiety and safeguarding mental wellbeing of staff is now a key concern for senior management and must be part of the day to day culture. Smart bosses will realize that offering staff time out – whether for a mental health day or enriching, educational sabbaticals may now overtake material bonuses as part of incentive packages.