Back to the future with COVID-19


Just as we were getting a sense of normality back into our working life, with face-to-face meetings and in-person events, we’re back with another lockdown.

We might be used to it after the extended lockdowns of the past, but as a business it’s a reminder that many of the steps we took then, and the changes in approach needed to support clients, are likely to become permanent.

There’s a greater sense of disappointment with lock-down this time as we were enjoying anew the face-to-face contact and organising and attending events. But it seems likely that hybrid working is here to stay. We can safely assume the way people work, interact and communicate will continue to change and home offices will become an established norm by choice, not as something forced on us through lockdowns.

It’s therefore a good time to revisit the initiatives and approaches introduced last year, and consider which ones are likely to become a permanent part of doing business.  For example, video calls – via Zoom and Microsoft Teams and the like – are almost certainly here to stay, so it’s a good idea for executives to improve their presentation skills.

It’s also a good time for consultants to revisit the way they adapted their services to suit clients’ changed needs during lockdown, and develop new approaches to suit permanent changes.

During the past year we made the decision to go out of our way to help clients whose budgets were stretched or resources were being cut to get through difficult times. In some instances, it was simply a matter of improving their understanding of how they can take advantage of their relationship with us. In others, it was assistance outside the contract.

We found increased appreciation by clients for our attempts to add value, especially when it was not a fee-charging activity.  We also found it useful to update clients – particularly those we have worked with for a long time – on the breadth of services we offer.

For instance, whether it was because of the way lockdown changed clients’ needs, or it was a natural evolution, we saw increased demand for content creation.

We also found that there was some confusion about the difference between earned and unearned content, and how the two worked. This could be because of the take-up of social media and the blurring of what were previously clearly defined differences between “advertorial” and “editorial”, but it definitely became more noticeable during 2020.

And we noticed that we spent much more time acting as a sounding board for clients over the past year, listening to what was concerning them, and talking through options and approaches. While this has always been part of client relationships it became much more prevalent and important.

All these developments show the importance of continually reviewing approaches that worked well in the past, and adapting or refining them to ensure they continue to suit the ever-changing environment.  We also like to think that it shows the ongoing importance of communications and PR advisers, at a time when effective and consistent communications with stakeholders is more important than ever before!

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