Has PR tested positive during Covid-19?

Has PR tested positive during Covid-19?

Coronavirus has threatened us all. Nine months on from what was, basically, a worldwide lockdown, we are still living and dealing with this virus and all the implications that have come from it. We are looking down the barrel of a recession shaped gun and a lot of PR professionals, and students, are wondering ‘how is PR going to survive?’

PR relies on the media. The media is currently relying on coronavirus headlines. Everyone is on panic mode and want to know all the latest updates on the pandemic – that is what is selling newspapers at the minute. Room for PR coverage is limited at best.

Events are all but virtual which completely takes away from the experience and makes it harder for those in PR hosting these events to create an exciting experience that attendees will remember when everything is via Zoom. After ‘covid’, ‘coronavirus’ and ‘lockdown’, ‘zoom’ HAS to be one of the most used words this year!

Francis Ingham, Director General of the PRCA, said: “All around the world, our industry has been hit hard by COVID-19. But thankfully, our worst fears at the beginning of this crisis have proved to be groundless. I stand by the prediction I made some months ago, that by the end of 2020, the industry will be 20% smaller in cash terms, and 10% smaller in terms of headcount. If that’s roughly right, then it could have been a lot worse frankly.”

Despite all the challenges and difficulties, the PR industry is one that has largely been able to successfully and safely adapt to the new world that was thrust upon us and every PR professional is doing their best to keep the cogs turning in this industry. Here are just a few ways that Covid-19 has impacted the PR industry for the better.

Better relationships

An email that opens with ‘Hi …….., hope you’re keeping well’ has never been more appreciated. Everyone is stressed. Everyone is worried. A kind word is all that is needed. Whilst journalists may not have the press release for your brand’s latest product at the top of their priority list when it comes to writing stories, it’s still good to check in with them and other media professionals who you rely on. This will bode far better for future projects and will ultimately benefit your relationships. We live in unprecedented times and whilst this mat not seem like the most effective use of your time, some PR professionals will have to do PR  a little different now and again – but it will all work in your favour.

Cold email templates for recruiters that can triple your response rates

Fail to prepare, prepare to fail

No one was fully prepared for a worldwide pandemic of a virus that was only created last year. It has had enormous consequences in almost every industry, and companies had to quickly shift their goals, strategies and even budgets in order to try and successfully come out the other side of this pandemic. Many PR professionals have had to completely change plans that had been in the making for months, or even years. Postpone events, product releases, change client’s diaries – basically do a year’s worth of work in a few weeks and months. That is a lot of pressure. However, without even really knowing it, the PR industry has just gained a new skill – crisis planning! Adapting and changing plans to fit the current climate and still have a successful outcome has become a daily routine in the last few months. Should plans change last minute ever again – even the smallest of changes – PR is ready!

ᐈ Event canceled stock photos, Royalty Free event cancelled pictures |  download on Depositphotos®

Working wherever, whenever

Luckily, those in PR can work wherever they need to, whenever they need to. Unlike many other industries, PR didn’t have a meltdown when going to the office seemed more and more dangerous, computers and laptops were just sat on kitchen tables instead of work desks. Of course, many embraced this change, and many didn’t, but to have the reassurance that you could still do your job everyday safely was a relief that many others didn’t have the luxury of experiencing. There are still lots of unanswered questions about how the world will look post pandemic, but at least the work from home option should now always be there on the table, wherever that table might be.

How to work from home securely during a quarantine | NordVPN

2020’s stamp on the future

For all those working form home, is there even such a thing as a co-worker anymore? Are co-workers now just the other members of your house? Stopping by someone’s desk for a chat or to discuss an idea is now a scheduled zoom meeting with a specific date and time. Going out for lunch with a co-worker is again, via the webcam on your laptop. Life has gotten very scheduled. At the same time, however, our lunch breaks can be spent walking around the local park with your dog, or nipping out to the gym and not worrying as much about being a sweaty mess when you come back – you may even have time for a quick shower!

Video Webinar - Zoom

There is not one person on this planet that hasn’t been affected in some way by Covid-19, whether they realise it or not. Many industries have suffered massively. Many brands and companies just cannot survive in this current climate. It hasn’t been an easy year, but it has been an eye-opening one, and a year to make you count your blessings. In a year when many have lost their jobs, including in the PR industry, those in PR can be grateful that they can still ‘go to work’, even if it is at home. We can still carry out our job effectively and get things done. It’s not easy but it is possible.

See? It’s not all bad when you’re positive during Covid-19!

Amy Hamilton is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Defining PR through a student lens

Defining PR through a student lens

When I think of blogging, I think of 7-year-old me writing a diary about everything I did every weekend throughout my childhood to look back at and remember the fond memories. Now that I have grown up and had the opportunity to look back at these supposed ‘blogs’ I drafted. It usually consisted of my weekly dance class and a sleepover at my favourite aunties house. But since this is my first ‘official’ blog lets start over. When my lecturer Conor asked us to each write a blog on a professional topic within the PR industry it got me thinking, how would I sum up in my head the definition of Public Relations?

The public relations and communications association (PRCA) defines public relations as ‘the way organisations communicate with the public, promote themselves, and build a positive reputation and public image. The way an organisation is represented in the media has a huge impact on how people perceive it. PR professionals try to influence the media to represent their organisation positively and communicate key messages. (PRCA, 2020)  

Yes, there is a lot of this definition I would agree with, however, in my eyes it’s so much more. So much more I could probably write 50 pages about. In a lecture with Conor he asked us to each come up with a definition of what we thought PR was. So, for me I got my pen and paper and started writing random words in bubbles around the page. He then asked us to ask a family member to see how they would sum it up and how their definition differed from mine. My mum made me laugh as she stood there making the dinner and said, ‘I take it it’s just marketing a company!’.  Three words kept appearing in the back of my head and it got me thinking, does anyone really know what PR is?

The first was the organisation. Now to me, an organisation is Tesco so I can understand when PRCA refers to ‘the way an organisation is represented in the media’ and how Tesco have TV adverts, radio adverts, social media platforms and even for me a monthly email to my inbox for some light bedtime reading!  But then Conor mentioned something that stuck, and it was ‘but the Kardashians wouldn’t be considered a company or organisation, would they?’ I’m not going to lie I did zone out for a few seconds because I’m one of those people who will agree with it being the biggest load of rubbish but secretly binge watch it all day on a Sunday afternoon. But in reality, the marketing and digital side to an organisation are all merging, so to me there is no clear, concise answer to that being considered the definition of PR. 

Secondly is publics. When I think of publics, I think it means segmenting our population into different groups and that the core message an organisation is trying to portray is relatable and when needed, they may tweak a message to make it suitable for the target audience.  When I look at the level of interest regarding publics, it’s clear to see that this cannot always be achieved by every organisation. For example, a local bakery may not be able to gain the same message to the publics as Tesco might or that one set of publics could be more ‘aware’ and the other more ‘latent’ when it comes to an organisation.  It’s about tailoring the core message to each set of publics in a way that will not conflict itself.  Jerry Silfwer, 2015 says ‘Group people on the basis on what situation that created them and how, when and where they choose to communicate. It’s easier, it’s faster, it makes more sense and most of all — it makes your public relations activities much more relevant and efficient.’

And finally, reputation. In the eyes of some, this factor is not held highly accountable but, in my opinion, reputation is important although it is not necessarily controlled by the PR team itself. Many people will disregard reputation and say that it is connected with relationships. But to me, they are categorised completely differently.  For me, it’s the image I envisage in my head when I think of an organisation, company or even the Kardashians! Or on the other hand, a bad scenario that sticks in my head when something is leaked or a few negative comments that one time on my 3am twitter rampage. But then again, not the full package of what a true definition of what public relations stands for. 

So, organisations, publics, and reputation are definitely relevant in shaping the definition of public relations but are by no means in my eyes what make up the full picture. So, what is the full picture? Will we ever know? For now, I’d say there is no single-handed answer to what or how to define public relations because the truth is its ever-changing and that is the beauty of it.  In my opinion of being a student studying the academic literature and history of what it has brought to the table over the years, I would say it’s a professional industry that helps organisations to communicate to its publics in an effective way which then helps to uphold a reputation which other organisations and departments can learn from within the workplace as well as outside the workplace and these messages are mostly perceived well by the media as they are sent and passed on.

Megan Strain is a part-time final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at – Instagram and LinkedIn.