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Public Relations post-COVID-19: Comms comes of age

By Eva Maclaine, CIPR International committee member and special adviser

This article was first published in Influence

An American psychologist recently claimed that at times of crisis people claim that nothing will ever be the same but that in the end little changes. So has globalisation bitten the dust? Will there be a new normal?

The whole world has at last realised how vital good communication is. Public awareness and understanding have been paramount and many governments have risen to the challenge well. It is maybe not a vain hope that people will continue to value all that good communication offers.

Eva Maclaine
Eva Maclaine

Helping companies find purpose and value

Where companies have greenwashed their image and professed social responsibility with little basis, they will be charged with providing real value to the communities they serve. Failure to demonstrate this will make enemies of their communities. Enabling companies to achieve this value and then communicating it to the stakeholders will be an essential role for PR people.

Globalisation v glocalisation

Globalisation has taken a real hit as we have realised the extent to which we are all interconnected. But will this stop? Our global supply chains are now so complex and, indeed, essential that it is unlikely to change completely. But, as we are forced to turn to our local food deliverers, there is a newfound appreciation of the local. PR will do well to take account of this preference.

New ways of working

The crisis has isolated us all and its effect has been brutal but technology has brought us together. Whilst we will certainly not all work from home in the future, technology has proved that much can be done outside the office. Whilst Zoom will not replace all chats around the water cooler and we will still need to meet in person at least from time to time, more people will find new ways of working. Flexible working will gain popularity.

The value of the human touch

PR professionals will increasingly build on strategic management. Much of the tactical stuff will be left to robots or very junior staff but PR will assume greater importance than ever, providing empathy, sensitivity and understanding of complex issues, of which technology is ignorant. If nothing else the coronavirus has confirmed not only the fragility of our relationships but also the deep need we all have for them.

Eva specialises in communication programmes with particular emphasis on reputation and issues management, stakeholder management and strategy development. She works in the UK and internationally. She is a Founding Chartered Practitioner, a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, Council Member, was Chair of CIPR International for three years and now is Chair of Professional Practices Committee. An occasional guest lecturer, she has also contributed to An Introduction to Public Relations, published by Pearson and regularly runs webinars.


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