Communication –  new normal, new possibilities

Communication –  new normal, new possibilities

Is it appropriate to talk about positive experiences related to COVID and lockdown? Has the pandemic and several months of completely different life taught us anything? The answer to that is clear, but will the lesson we’ve learnt stay with us longer? Or maybe rather – what is worth keeping; how can we use the new opportunities in our industry? The world has changed – more rapidly than we could have predicted just a few months ago. And probably in a while, we will be back to normal, but it will be a new normal and new standards.

First of all – COVID has forced accelerated digitalization, which isn’t anything new because the technologies themselves have been around for a long time. However, for some reason we weren’t using them the way they deserved to be used. So we aren’t discovering any new lands, but rather going deeper into a previously discovered island because the coast is no longer enough for us. So, as communication specialists, which  should we pay particular attention to?

Online relationships

Our relationships have been transferred into the online-zone – meetings, chats, statements, interviews, conferences and press briefings… everything began to function exclusively on the internet. It also created additional potential for using statements of experts from different countries. As shown in the report made during the lockdown by the Polish Press Agency, journalists adjusted quickly and efficiently to the new reality. To everyone’s surprise, remote working turned out to be just as productive and fruitful as work in editorial offices. Additionally, more than half of the respondents admitted to having observed the following behaviours during the pandemic: greater availability of interlocutors through remote forms of communication (65%), being forced to react faster than before in creating and delivering articles or news (59%), taking on more work than before (57%). 68% of journalists admitted that the shift to remote forms of communication at work forced by the pandemic does not negatively affect the quality of their work. It is up to us how we use this new potential of building relations regardless of location.

Different kind of media

COVID has accelerated digital subscriptions and caused an increase in paid online content. Fewer and fewer readers visit newsstands and buy paper editions of newspapers and magazines, which caused publishers to face new challenges. Some of them decided to temporarily suspend traditional editions of publications, urging readers to use their online versions, which resulted in an exponential increase in digital subscriptions. What does this mean for communication? Paid content causes higher expectations of readers, which mobilizes publishers to create high-quality content and return to reliable, good journalism, and maybe even to stop the avalanche of fake news. The role of influencers has also been redefined. Those of them who based their relations only on empty words depicted by a beautiful picture got relegated to the background. The audience began to better appreciate reliable and truthful information – and may it remain that way for longer.

Media are looking for new business models and their place in the world of new, not yet fully defined communication. It is a signal for PR and marketing – now is the time for new ideas and unconventional solutions.

Internal communication

The remote work formula has been functioning in business for many years. Perhaps not on such a large scale, as in the pre-COVID era it was treated more as a privilege than a necessity, but there isn’t anything novel in the idea. However, building a team and conducting communication in the conditions of meeting limitations is a huge challenge, both for managers and employees. It requires other forms of management, possibly a different structure and certainly different skills and tools. While the relationships built in the past are still working at the moment, this capital will run out in a few months. New relationships with new team members will probably have to be built largely through virtual meetings. It requires a different approach to communication strategy, different choice of tools and certainly an expansion of their range. The belief that we will eventually go back to the previous model slowly ceases to be justified.

Sales

What does sales have to do with communication? A lot! We observe the acceleration of changing the way of selling. The sellers have stopped travelling to clients and meeting them face to face. It turns out that these departments can also be moved online, now at an even faster pace. Remote order taking, smooth distribution, online workshops and consultations, constant customer support via communicators or by phone, individual programs created for customers, online training in the form of video-conferences or webinars… all these tools have entered the canon of sellers and will certainly remain with us permanently, with no possibility of returning to the previous model. This is a new challenge for communication – preparing sales for different ways of entering the market, efficient use of social media, building personal brands, using a rich arsenal of tools.

These four areas will be important in terms of communication. There are undoubtedly more of them, such as new expectations of media recipients and readers, which results in the need to change the strategy of content preparation. All this means that communication needs to be rethought based on those new assumptions. And although we all know that personal contact with another person can’t be fully replaced by virtual contact, we can find new areas of development thanks to a good communication strategy.

Dorota Sapija, managing director, Omega Communication (www.communication.pl/en)

The first three months are never easy…

The first three months are never easy…

It is never easy to start working for a new client. Those are typically very challenging and critical times. All the hard work that you have done in the past to win the account can rapidly be wasted if you do not operate and execute the campaign in the appropriate way. For clients, these are critical times, too. They’ve invested time and money in a new PR agency and need to be assured they will get their promised results.

Here are some of our best practices for making sure both agency and client gets the best out of these crucial times:

Start on the right footing

The first meeting with the client, and we’re talking about the starting pitch, has to be the base on which everything else will be built on. That’s where the parameters of activity will be established, where the first feelings of ‘chemistry’ (or lack of it) will show and that will prove so important later on during the client-provider relationship. Those early stages will be the time to read and interpret all the important signals in order to keep the client satisfied with the best results possible for years to come.

Get stuck in

Get involved, and if it’s not your speciality, learn with motivation. There is no other secret. Dedication and time spent getting to know the industry or sector in which your (new) client operates is fundamental in order to achieve the desired goals. It is true that all this knowledge and specialization is not learned overnight, but you should have all the skills and previous experience to be able to do the rest and start impressing your client.

Make it a reality

It is not so much a job, but rather an attitude. It’s about offering and portraying confidence to your client and showing him/her from the first time that what you promise will become a reality. Three months is more than enough time to show that you can work together.

Learn from (their) experience

It is an exercise of logic rather than an audit. It is natural that the new client/company explains to you what has worked and what has not in the past; what they have liked and what they have not liked (from the previous agency or experience). Based on all that, the right thing to do is to take advantage of everything good and discard everything that is not that good, in order to achieve new formulas, as well as new ways of working.

We must present ourselves with an open and collaborative attitude and take advantage of synergies and common goals. You can always learn from what others did, recognising that the right thing to do is to “not change it if it works”.

You’re the expert

It all depends on the expectations of your new client. Certainly, there might be pressure, often self-imposed, to get the CEO on the front page as a way to start the relationship. However, this strategy is not always the best way to start a working relationship between the agency and the new client. Reasoned advice on why the CEO should (or should not) appear in a given media title should have much more importance and value. If we have or want to tell something new, then our value as an agency can be demonstrated sooner rather than later.