It’s no secret, life as we know it may never be the same since the COVID-19 outbreak. Most people in the business sector are convinced the pre-pandemic ways of conducting business are long-gone. As devastating as the shutdown was, there’s been a lot to learn from the experience. The PR industry has also changed substantially. While businesses and brands rekindle the flame, PR companies like 5W Public Relations and Communications Strategy Group will continue to be needed, more than ever before. Scott Bartnick, co-founder, and COO of Otter Public Relations, shares his insights on how businesses need to adapt to the changing business environment.
How has the pandemic affected the PR industry? And what does its future look like?
There’s no point in mincing words. So I’ll say it as it is. The pandemic has affected the PR industry rather severely. As businesses suffered, so did the PR industry. You see, the pandemic created a kind of dominoes effect. That is simply because no one had ever prepared to face such an unprecedented crisis. Still, it has been humbling. It has taught us that surprises don’t always come from places you never looked in, but places you didn’t even know existed.
But, it’s not going to be the same once the pandemic is gained control over. You see, businesses will require hugely regaining people’s trust. And they will need their PR agencies like never before to do that. It will require a new kind of management, new strategies, solutions that reinforce ideas of faith, commitment, honesty, and a set of actions that aim to protect the greater good. The new ways for the new normal will need to be implemented, packaged, and delivered. And with that, the PR industry should be back on its feet, stronger than ever.
What would be your word of advice for employees of the PR industry?
“This, too, shall pass.” Sure, it’s easier said than done, but if history has taught us anything, it is that there’s a time for nightmares to begin, and there’s a time for them to end. It’s the waiting period that will test your mettle. On the practical side, it would be advisable if PR employees stayed connected with their fellow professionals. They’ll discover that new paths to the future can be built through rational, thoughtful, and objective dialogues. Professionals can also use the time at hand to evaluate their careers, choices, and decisions and develop new and improved strategies to conduct themselves as professionals in the future. Additionally, individuals can also up-skill themselves and come out stronger from the lockdown than they were going in. In short, one should find the best ways to make the most of a bad situation.
What changes can the PR industry prepare itself for?
While predicting the future might be a bad idea right now, one thing has emerged clearly due to the lockdown – the power of digital media. Not that people didn’t know it before, but perhaps not this way and certainly not so intimately. Anyway, the point is that like any other industry; the PR industry should also learn to keep track of and keep pace with emerging digital trends and even bring their creativity to Zoom events or organize interesting ways for ‘work from home scenarios’ or build innovative rules around online hiring – the list is long. Still, it has the potential to add real value to the shape life appears to be taking.
What kinds of businesses will be successful in the post-COVID-19 market?
Today’s business leaders must reevaluate what’s relevant. In doing so, if you can keep your supply chains simpler and offer professional services rather than an abundance of products, your money won’t be tied up in inventory. But more so, companies must invest in employees with a skill set that includes being innovative and adaptive to new ways of getting a job done. The pandemic has taught us that people who can pivot and adapt are survivors. These are the people you want on your team. And these are the skills that should be at the top of your resume.
According to you, what is/are the best way(s) to stay on top of such challenges?
That’s a good one. And I think, the world over, most people are attempting to answer this question in clichés, which is good. Most businesses already take into account the fact that there will be difficulties in their journey. Such companies become an extension of the strong-mindedness of their founders, core players, or investors. People who expect disasters seem better equipped to handle them when they occur. They learn not to underestimate its possibility nor be overwhelmed by it when it happens. The best answer I can give you is to develop a strong, well-informed, and active mindset. It can be tested, tried, but it cannot be taken away without your consent.
Changes in the business sector are far from over. For Bartnick and others in the PR field, the ongoing struggle will be to maintain a forward progression as the business world continues to reignite itself. Amid so much change, one thing is sure; those who adapt and transform shall prevail.