Friday 24 April 2020
PR lecturer Rob Dalton spots three key trends emerging from the troubled times we are enduring. Each stresses the vital importance of public relations to the modern world.
Those who communicate are those who lead. It may be true that history is written by the winners and endured by the losers. However, there is a clear case emerging that the role played by communicators in tackling the Covid-19 pandemic should, at least, not be forgotten. The clarity and pertinence of messages, the effectiveness of communications methods, and the interest in outcomes and effects has, quite literally, been a matter of life and death in recent weeks for most PR people. It is, perhaps, not surprising that those who see the importance of PR are the ones most capable of securing the type of action and change needed by society in these difficult times. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is a fabulous, but just one, example of how leading a country well demands the skills of a modern communicator.
Good PR demands authenticity. We may know it when we see it but it doesn’t always mean the same thing to people. PR academics have pondered on the dilemma of authenticity for years but the current pandemic has brought this impasse into sharp relief. The work of communicators has revealed that authenticity is certainly about dedication and exceptional service. However, it has also shown that authenticity can be transformational with the courageous efforts of health and key workers uniting a nation and showing us that greed is far from good and that, when push comes to shove, there is, in fact, nothing else but society. Those who continue to believe that PR is about spin or lying, and we need not simply look over the Atlantic for an example, are most likely to increase the risks faced by those who listen to them. We offer them “our thoughts and prayers.”
Good PR now will aid recovery later. The pandemic will cast a shadow over the country’s economic health for some time. Yet, it is clear already to progressive businesses that recovery tomorrow is dependent on how well they use PR today. Those who have been quick to provide and communicate highly responsive, even individualised, services that place the buyer at the heart of the transaction are not just keeping their customers healthy and safe. They are showing that the relationship matters to them. It is difficult to think of a more powerful USP. If today you get no explanation for a loss of goods or services or fail to secure, maybe, the refund you are due, I wonder who you will do business with tomorrow. It is good PR that will keep the economy together.
So, as we recall that we need to stay at home, keep our distance and wash our hands a lot, and, perhaps, feel a little more assured that we can still get the goods and services we need, even during times of crisis, let us remember too that it was PR which helped us to understand this.
Interested to know more about PR? Check out our PR courses here at Solent University.