5 perspectives on Covid19 every PR person should consider

19.05.20

I know that times like these tend to spark off all sorts of thoughts, analysis and opinions.  MediaHQ kindly invited me to weigh in with some of my own, so here goes:

 

  1. Everyone’s a junkie now

 

A media junkie that is. Since we’ve been placed under lockdown we’re consuming unprecedented levels of media. We’re not at live events, perusing malls, eating out, meeting for a drink. We’re at home, on the sofa. We’ve fallen into the clutches of this habit and I think it’s going to be a hard one to kick once things revert to a more normal state of affairs.

It has also been interesting to see just what sort of dependencies we’re developing.

According to the World Economic Forum, for Gen Z (up to 23 years old) and Millennials (25-39 years old), there has been a sharp increase in the consumption of media such as online videos, video games and both TV and music streaming. Interestingly, these demographics have also been getting their hits of broadcast TV and online press where they hadn’t really been before. Gen X-ers (40-54 years old) are just consuming more of every type of media they can get their hands on, with a particular reliance on radio, online videos and streamed TV.  Broadcast TV is also seeing a massive surge with them, but that form of media is like crack cocaine for Boomers (55-75 years old) and they are watching 42% more than they were pre-lockdown.

Media is being devoured digitally, we can’t get enough of this method of delivery. Physical press, as you’d probably expect, has really not shown any increase in its consumption. We’ve been talking for years about the gradual decline of this type of media; sadly, I think Covid19 has accelerated that and for newspapers I can hear the fat lady starting to clear her throat.

For those in PR there are silver linings. A nation of media addicts means an increased requirement for good stories and content to cater for that craving.

 

  1. Pandemic positivity

 

We all want some good news now, right?

The media agenda has become a bit skewed over the last decade or so with things going bad; celebrities cocking up, people falling from their pedestals, lives of the rich and famous being played out in public as they are imploding. Perhaps that’s been because the media thought that was the way to make us feel better about ourselves? A sort of ‘maybe our lives aren’t as shit as we think they are’ mentality.

I think we’ll see a lot more of a positive news environment now. People want to have a better mindset, develop the ability to switch off a bit and cope better day to day. Hearing about good stuff going on helps. Disney+ has recently launched and its new subscriber numbers have exceeded even Mickey and Co’s most optimistic forecasts. A bit of fantasy over reality is what people want and somewhere like Disney is a nice safe place to be.

 

  1. The agency vibe could change

 

For people running and leading agencies the current crisis has meant that they’ve been engaged in situations that they have never been in before. Instead of trying to operate profitably and working out how much of a margin they can make on the income they generate, they are suddenly in a battle for survival.

From looking at a P&L and planning resources, they’ve had to get their heads round cash flow forecasts, chasing up money outstanding and getting cash in the bank.

I’m sure most agencies will get through it but they’ll come out the other side chastened by the experience.  Having already probably cut costs back to the bare minimum they will make sure that going forward they cut their cloth accordingly. There will be much more of a focus on the finances. Do we need as big an office, should we co-work, do we need to travel as much as we did?

Coming out of this a bit scarred, agency management might get a little more old-fashioned and conservative. Hopefully not at the expense of fun.

 

  1. Carpe diem

 

I remember going to Iceland a few years ago, not long after the country had been financially decimated when most of their banks collapsed. It is an amazing place to go by the way, I thoroughly recommend it when we can safely travel again, particularly in winter time. The people there had basically lost all their money, any savings they had just disappeared overnight.

 

Sure, they were furious at the bankers and financiers who had brought that about, but their attitude to life couldn’t have been more refreshing. They were partying like they never had done before. They’d lost everything. But hey, so had everyone else! There was no point in saving as any trust in their financial institutions had obviously completely evaporated, so you might as well spend whatever you have got on enjoying yourself.

I reckon that when we’re through the other side of Covid19 we could see a fair few people living their lives in the vein of our Viking friends. Short-term, a reticence to commit, entertainment, pleasure and satisfaction a priority.

Brands and corporations are going to need to understand this if they want to get their style of communication right and be relevant. YOLO.

 

  1. Empathy really matters

 

I think we’re really going to value this trait a lot more in both people and companies, their leaders and their brands.

Those who really listen, have the ability to sense other people’s emotions and what other people are thinking, and can put themselves in their shoes and approach things from their frame of reference are going to be the people we will come to respect and admire.

I’ve been following how Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, has been dealing with the current situation. When you start from a place of natural empathy, then your actions and the way you communicate seamlessly carry on in the same vein.  She has been both comforting and inspirational. She has managed to communicate the incredibly healing message to Kiwis that they are not alone.

Brands, corporates and agencies need to connect with how their consumers, stakeholders and audiences are feeling and I’m not sure they’ll be able to do that without empathy that is both instinctual and innate.

Graham Goodkind is the Chairman & Founder of Frank, one of the UK’s leading PR agencies. He also Chairs social and media marketing agency Noise Media Group and is a non-executive director of KXC, a marketing, distribution and media hub for brands in the European legal cannabis sector.  He is also a “Dutch Uncle” to several other marketing services agencies.