Have you ever wondered what would it be like to be in the circuit breaker / lock-down with no smart phone, no Zoom, no Netflix, no social media and no food delivery apps at your finger tips?? Indeed, a scary thought...

The one thing that is easing the pain of isolation is the ability to connect and communicate through internet and screens.  In times when the human touch is a taboo, virtual communication is the only blessing we have, to keep the human spirit alive. 

Even for the businesses, communication is the only connecting factor with their consumers, till we reach better times. So how can companies ensure that they thread these times communicating effectively with their stakeholders?

I asked the Industry experts on relevant tips for PR and Communications amidst The Pandemic.  Here's what they have to say: 

Mike Liew - Managing Partner - IN.FOM

What is the key role PR can play for companies whose businesses are severely disrupted by COVID-19?

There are a lot of uncertainties during this period. While it makes sense and critical for businesses to be focused on staying alive, it is also important for business owners to communicate and to continue telling their stories. Understandably, many of them are grappling with the need to balance between safety of their employees, current financial sustainability and the long-term viability of their companies. But the opportunity to remain relevant and to demonstrate care and leadership, is to ramp up communications to stakeholders – both internal and external.

Indeed, this is the time for all business leaders to start sharing their plans to mitigate the current challenging situation (if they have yet to do so) and outline their vision for the future, while ensuring that they are also doing what they can to help their employees, customers, and other key stakeholders during this time.

Constant communications now, coupled with solid evidence of care for their communities and clarity of future plans, will go a long way to build a stronger foundation for businesses to successfully ease into the new ‘normal’ world, post-COVID-19, however it may look like.

Let’s not forget about internal communications! Given that many companies have to change the way of working due to the Circuit Breaker, how should companies manage internal communications to staff?

Indeed, regular updates and communications to internal stakeholders are even more important than ever before. They are constantly being bombarded by depressing news of economic downturns and staff lay-offs while working from home and in isolation. As such, companies should explore various ways to continue to engage their employees.

At IN.FOM, we have adopted flexible work styles since we started operations nine years ago, where our team members have been equipped with the latest laptops and are given the flexibility to work from wherever, whenever. In a way, we has been preparing for this new world of work for many years already.

With this pandemic, the transition to working from home has been quite seamless from the standpoint of people, processes and technology. As such, we have been heartened to see that our talents continue to collaborate very actively through different modes and channels of communications, be it weekly staff meetings, virtual drink sessions or small group discussions.

Our current focus is not only to mentally prep our team for a (potentially) extended period of working from home arrangement, but also to encourage them to continuously push boundaries and apply out-of-the-box thinking so that we can continue to virtually support our clients effectively.

If there is one piece of advice you can give to all the PR practitioners out there still dealing with Communications around COVID-19, what would that be?

The pandemic is not going away anytime soon and like it or not, businesses have to start preparing themselves now to deal with the new normal post-COVID-19 because the way we work and live, transact businesses and communicate would be dramatically changed. This means that they have to start rethinking about business operations, messaging, communications strategies and tactics in a new world where the old playbook has been rewritten.

For some visionary leaders, this period might also be the most opportune time to reinvent and reposition their businesses. Indeed, this is the time for communications professions to help their business leaders to start sharing their plans to mitigate the current challenging situation (if they have yet to do so) and outline their vision for the future, while ensuring that they are also doing what they can to help their employees, customers, and other key stakeholders during this time.

Constant communications now, coupled with solid evidence of care for their communities and clarity of future plans, will go a long way to build a stronger foundation for businesses to successfully ease into the new ‘normal’ world, however it may look like.

Edwin Yeo - General Manager - SPRG

How should companies adapt their PR strategy to respond to COVID?

The key role for most businesses during this juncture would be to have recovery plans in place when the pandemic is over and PR can be a crucial part of that recovery. For many businesses, the immediate goal is to ensure that there is enough cash flow to continue operations in the short term, but it's equally important to also have a vision of business continuity post Covid-19. 

What PR practitioners should focus on during this period is to improve relationships at a time when most relationships are strained. The focus must be on three fronts - internal communications, stakeholder engagement and CSR. Creating a positive image as a caring company at a time when staff, customers and the community at large need help will benefit the company greatly when things start going back to normal.

The key messages would be caring for staff, customers and community at large.

Will The Pandemic have a lasting impact on companies’ PR strategy post COVID-19 too?

For sure. If a company manages to build a lot of goodwill during this period, it must continue to invest in such communications post Covid-19.  A lot of companies are rethinking their cost of doing business, and the weaknesses of existing business infrastructures are painfully exposed during this time. Some companies will realize they have grown too big, while others might start realizing they have spent too much on their offices. Some would have adopted new communication methods during Covid-19 and found that it works well, and there would be no reason to change that after things go back to normal. There's not much chance that things will ever go back to business as usual. Covid-19 has, in many ways, been a reset button for lots of businesses, particularly those in the retail industry. They would need to asses the goodwill earned and continue to amplify that in the future.

If there is one piece of advice you can give to all the PR practitioners out there still dealing with Communications around COVID-19, what would that be?

This has given us an opportunity to figure out what we don't know and how to get better at what we are doing. My one piece of advice, use this time to figure out what you don't know.

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The Pandemic has not only taught us the importance of communications both personally and professionally but also powered us to learn, un-learn and re-learn.  Hopefully we can integrate our learning(s) into our "new normal" lives when all this is over.

If you have any tips and insights to share, do leave your comments or get in touch with Tasnim Rangwala at tasnim.rangwala@xpand.sg