PR in the post-COVID era: emotion, quality, speed and flexibility

Although the pandemic has caused a crisis in many industries, it - properly exploited - is an opportunity to review existing solutions and develop new ones. According to conference speakers PR 2021 - Challenge accepted! organised by the Association of Public Relations Companies, it is a good time for the PR industry to develop. However, changes are needed in communication, methods of creating strategies and the way media relations are built. What will the work of PR professionals look like in the post-COVID era?

Experts say that the new tactics developed during the pandemic will stay with us for longer. The new watchwords, which are already in place but will not lose their relevance after the pandemic, are: appeal to emotions, quality over quantity and agile mindset. It is also highly likely that we will continue to successfully organise virtual meetings with the media, among others.

Appeal to emotions, i.e. showing understanding and support

The complete change of the previous lifestyle was the cause of much stress and confusion. Both consumers and brands had to deal with new issues. The previous sales-oriented communication model no longer worked - ownership became a secondary issue. Brands used to show potential customers that they needed their product. Now they need to communicate that they understand their problems, identify with them and have a product that can help. According to the COVID-19 Barometer survey and the experts at Kantar, the company behind it, as many as 90% consumers expect businesses to be proactive. However, this must not just be based on words of support - they must be followed by concrete actions. Demonstrating understanding towards the needs of consumers and willingness to support them in a crisis situation allow positive emotional associations to be created with the brand. Consumers who feel attached to it are likely to remain loyal to it even after the crisis is over.

Quality over quantity, i.e. credibility and reliability of information

A major problem that has been exacerbated during the pandemic period and is one of the reasons why recipients of messages are confused is information chaos. An overabundance of contradictory information coming from multiple channels left them feeling bewildered. The large amount of fake news, concerning, among other things, the origin of the virus, the closing of city borders, or 'experts' questioning its existence, caused a partial loss of trust in the media. In this situation, it is even more important than before to create messages that are clear and readable. It is also important to back up such material with statistics and opinions from reliable sources. Michal Kwietniewski of Clue PR emphasises that it is also very important to carefully select the audience and adapt both the content and the channels through which it will be transmitted to them.

Speed of action, i.e. reacting and avoiding silence

In the media race, the importance of response time has increased significantly. According to Monika Domanska, managing partner at Made in PR, the silence that falls at the moment of crisis is the most telling message - silence for too long can mean that the situation is very bad. In order to maintain good relations with the client, it is worthwhile to take the initiative to get in touch, for example by expressing concern and offering to help. However, we need to find a balance between speed and the responsibility that goes behind issuing a message - both to the customer and to the media. Reliability and the quality of the message still come first.

Agile mindset, i.e. flexibility and adaptation to market needs

Market needs are changing very dynamically and there is no telling what the next day will bring. According to Łukasz Malczewski, managing partner of d*fusion communication, one of the most important qualities of a new-age PR person is the ability to nimble action, i.e. adapting quickly to new conditions. Crisis situations require us to abandon previously developed strategies in favour of constant analysis of the changes taking place and adapting our communication methods to them. Malczewski speaks of four stages of action: observation, orientation (drawing conclusions), decision and action. Following this pattern will allow a decision to be made quickly that will have the desired effect. Dynamic action is also a chance to demonstrate creativity, as it offers the opportunity to apply non-standard solutions.

Moving online, or building relationships online

The pandemic has largely shifted everyday life to the internet. This has forced changes in both customer relations and the functioning of the media, including newspapers. Many of them have seen a decline in sales of the paper versions. In some cases, the losses were so large that they forced staff cuts, salary reductions and the closure of some titles - e.g. Agora abandoned the publication of 'Avanti' and 'Logo', and ZPR abandoned 'Podróży', 'Żagli' and 'Zdrowie'.

Some publishers have turned the crisis into an opportunity. Cezary Szymanek, editor-in-chief of, cites the launch of paid subscriptions by, among others, 'Fakt' as an example of a quick response to the situation, which helped reduce losses. Gazeta Wyborcza, in turn, thanks to making the content of its paper editions also available online and transferring the traffic to the Internet, recorded an increase in the number of users by 39% and a rise in the number of page views by 80% between March and April.[1]. Readers choose to buy access to material because they are looking for credibility. For them, a proven brand is a guarantee of this, no matter what medium the articles are provided on.

Meetings with media representatives have also moved into the virtual world. Up to now, we have been building relationships during meetings or press conferences. However, it turned out that they can be successfully replaced by video conversation. Jarosław Bańda, Managing Director of the Lighthouse agency, emphasises that the use of social media, such as LinkedIn or Twitter, is also important in building relationships with journalists. Conversations without face-to-face contact increase security and save time travelling to companies' headquarters, so they are highly likely to stay with us for longer. However, online communication is not a complete replacement for face-to-face communication. In the post-COVID era, we will certainly return to face-to-face meetings, although it cannot be ruled out that there will be far more online meetings than before.

The communication principles that were developed during the pandemic are already setting new standards for action. We are appealing more frequently to the emotions of audiences, and the role of the agile mindset, i.e. agile thinking and innovation. The speed of communication has become more important than the form of the message, as well as clarity and credibility. Those who adapt to change and place creativity and flexibility above all else will succeed.


Author of the text: Kamila Zawadzka