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?
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.
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.
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)