The Covid-19 and its aftermath have put a strain on all of us, especially in the public relations and corporate communications industry. The confinement that followed turned our world upside down in a matter of days. Amid the challenges posed by the pandemic, people have had to adapt to new ways of operating whereby hybrid models have become the new normal and digital media has become the new medium for interaction. But we’re slowly getting back to how things were before the lockdown.
To talk about the initial challenges that the communications industry as a whole faced in the early days of the lockdown and how this affected their productivity and how they can best switch to traditional means of communication, a brilliant panel of successful people in public relations and industry communications who spoke at the third edition of e4m’s PR and Corp Comm 40 under 40 Summit 2021.
The panel consisted of Shubhreet Kaur, Director of Creative Services, Hill + Knowlton Strategies India; Proteek Dey, Head of Digital, RF Thunder; and Supraja Srinivasan, Head of Public Relations and Corporate Communications, BookMyShow. The session was moderated by Shrabasti Mallik from Exchange4media.
The session started with the panelists who explained how they adjusted to the work from home model and the issues they had to overcome. “One of the things I miss the most is being able to go to the office and meet people. One thing covid has clearly shown is that managing a house and your kids and then working from home is quite a challenge and it continues to be, “Kaur said and added,” The kind of connection you get and how things move much faster when you attend an office or are able to have a meeting with a client or make that connection you need as a team and even when working with clients and the relationship you build that has taken one hit during covid. Frankly, I think people did a really good job of being able to manage and maintain things since nobody got to meet anybody; you only spoke by zoom. People have been successful in coping and making things work and I think that’s commendable. “
The experience was slightly different for Srinivasan. She explained, “We were basically all out of home entertainment. The idea was for you to go out of your house for anything, be it movies, live events, music shows, sports, theater, activities and even amusement parks – your choice was. Bookmyshow. For us, telling customers to stay home and that we would provide entertainment for them was like a complete 360 degree change. On March 25, 2020, the day after the national confinement, we put the first virtual musical series live. We were the first platform to make this transition in less than 24 hours because we kind of had a sense of what was to come. We had therefore started to work accordingly two weeks in advance. We were savvy enough to activate it in less than 24 hours. We started off as a 10 day series and had some really popular independent artists on board to do this series. That said, it’s important to tackle the elephant in the room, which is the fact that the media industry contracted overnight and so many journalists were out of work. There was a time when I thought a few times before sending a message because I wasn’t sure if this person had the job. I think the biggest challenge was not reaching people in virtual media, but finding the right reporter to tell this story. “
To that, Dey added, “I’m not speaking just for ourselves or Ruder Finn; I speak for the world. We didn’t know how to handle it. And the situation was changing in real time – every day there would be a new rumor or a new law or something new that you had to figure out and then find ways around it. And at that point, we were also going through a phase where we had hired a lot of people; how to integrate a workforce without being physically present. And that’s exactly when Zoom helped. It was the only way we saw that it was possible for us to connect with everyone. And once we did, we realized that everyone around us was on the same boat.
The three panelists, while we look forward to getting back to work as they knew before the pandemic, have agreed in unison that the hybrid work mode is here to stay. “If foreclosure and the hybrid working model have proven anything, it would be that we’ve all become hyper-productive,” Dey said.
The world, however, is moving towards normality. What are the prerequisites that a communication professional should keep in mind when making the transition to traditional modes of interaction? Dey elucidated the facts with fine words. “The first thing to keep in mind and it’s not just for communication professionals but at all levels, is compassion and empathy. A lot of people have been through a lot in the past few months. While a lot of people are coming back to work, I have met a lot of people who are managing a lot of things around the house and they’ve found a way to find a balance. I don’t think it’s fair for us to throw this off balance.
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