Amid the Pandemic’s Devastation, PR Can See a Few Upsides

woman talks to mentor on phone

[Editor's Note: Periodically, interrupts its tactics, tips and strategies posts to offer communicators words of encouragement. You can find the previous essay in this series here.]

If you’d said in December 2019 that many of us in PR would be starting 2022 mostly or fully remote, wearing sweatpants and listening to music without headphones in basements or spare rooms, we’d have had to question your ability to see the future.

Yet, here we are, looking to year three of the pandemic without a clear end in sight. The devastation of dreams and tremendous loss of life are incalculable. Still, as 2022 begins, let’s take a moment and look at some of the upbeat changes emerging from this awful moment.

Work is Flexible 

While the economic destruction following in the pandemic’s wake is enormous, many sectors, including PR, survived. Indeed, PR pros seem to be working smarter and more productively now. In addition, communicators have freedom and flexibility they lacked prior to COVID-19.

As PR pros, our responsibilities include staying innovative, monitoring trends and learning how to leverage the latest developments to raise awareness for those we represent.

The pandemic forced many communicators to do the same internally. It helped some PR leaders recognize the importance of work-life balance. Amid a rapid transition to remote work, the industry learned people are navigating personal and professional challenges and have unique working styles.

For example, the next generation of PR talent wants flexibility; so do older staffers. As a result, progressive PR companies are benefitting from a larger talent pool through the expansion of remote-work options. While some offices are open for those who want them, the industry recognizes that remote work is a legitimate option for high-quality results.

Let's be thankful for communication leaders and companies who prioritized employee well-being and began treating staff as people first and workers second.

You See People

Prior to the pandemic, the vast majority of daily meetings took place in conference rooms with several team members gathered around an office phone at the center of a table. Gathering face-to-face with non-local executives was a special occasion reserved for planning meetings, kickoffs or major campaign announcements.

In addition, it required putting faces to names communicators interacted with daily. The incorporation of Zoom meetings has led to more face time with those we represent, with media contacts and beyond. That rarely happened before the pandemic.

We’re More Collaborative

Prior to the pandemic, some companies held an annual or twice-a-year all-hands meeting where the entire company gathered for a day to talk through issues, updates and participate in team-building activities.

In many cases we communicated when we walked to another part of the office, picked up the phone for an extended conversation or used email. All these required taking time out of an already tight schedule.

The pandemic led to increased use of collaboration tools, such as instant messaging and Slack. And those Zoom meetings many of us dread? Well, there are a few positives here, too. For instance, some companies now hold regular, all-hands weekly, monthly or quarterly town halls.

Admittedly, these get-togethers vary in effectiveness. Yet, when handled well, they provide a beneficial increase in face time and culture. For many PR pros, these sessions mean seeing the extended team far more often today than in pre-pandemic times.

In addition, they offer tremendous opportunities for exchanges between senior and more junior communicators, including some who were hired during COVID and have never stepped into their company’s offices.

One of the basic tests of PR is relevance and adaptability. Staying true to values is a major test for communicators and agencies as they navigate these unpredictable years. Amid this crazy, often overwhelming pandemic, PR pros have taken strides to adapt, while maintaining the flexibility and results we desire.

Here’s to a productive and healthy 2022!

Mike Atkinson is a senior account director at Sage Communications