PR and Comms Leaders emerge from crisis to focus on recovery

By Natalie Orringe, Chief Marketing Officer, Access Intelligence Group.

In the week that the UK high street finally reopened, and COVID-19 cases continued to fall, it feels like we are through the apex of the crisis. What the next phase of recovery will look like is, of course, impossible to forecast except to be sure that the ‘normal’ we were used to is unlikely to return.

The implications for the PR and Communications industry are vast. It starts with how to shift strategy and delivery from managing reputation through a crisis to adjusting to a new reality that will be full of ‘knowable unknowns’.

The future for all of us is likely to be volatile and fast changing.

We sought to better understand how leaders in PR and Communications were approaching this post-crisis stage so commissioned Pulsar, our sister company, to complete first of its kind research into social conversation between October to May 2020 amongst PR leaders.

Using publicly available data, our Barometer will track, ongoing, the outlook, sentiment and leadership behaviours of over 800 people who identify themselves on Twitter as either a Head or Director of Comms or PR.

Our analysis of the last six months of social conversations by industry leaders reinforces how fundamental a transformation COVID-19 has bought to the sector.

Through Q2, the topic accounted for two thirds (65%) of all social conversations. This is more than any other business theme – from investment to recruitment, marketing to strategy. But, while more conversations about COVID-19 were being had through Q2, our research found that the focus shifted.

Increasingly, PR and Communications leaders are using their social conversations to discuss recovery – referring to terms including ‘return to work’, ‘get back to’. By the end of Q2, the topic accounted for two in five (36%) of all posts, a 13% increase in share of voice on Q1. In comparison, conversations relating to action (or response) fell over 20% between Q4 2019 to Q1 and into Q2 2020. Having been the most important topic in Q4, Action accounted for less than half of all conversations in Q2.

Another key trend between Q4 2019 and Q2 2020 was a decline in discussion around trust, which fell from accounting for one in seven (14%) of conversations to one in twenty (6%) amongst PR and Comms leaders. This reflected a wider trend of a decline in conversations about non COVID-19 topics but is also interesting as a benchmark for how industry leadership prioritised the crisis against all other business and strategy topics.

Over time, our analysis will give greater insights into decision making among PR and Communications leaders but it reinforces that, as we step into this new phase, robust plans for recovery are as essential to those for managing a crisis.

These recovery strategies must ensure that organisations prioritise reputation and invest ongoing in strategies that maintain open, transparent and real-time engagement with stakeholders. There will be challenges ahead for the industry but, having proved the value of PR and communications in crisis, we have to realise the opportunities in recovery.

Natalie Orringe is Chief Marketing Officer at the Access Intelligence Group which includes Vuelio, the platform that helps organisations make their stories matter, ResponseSource, the network that connects media and influencers to the resources they need; and Pulsar, the audience intelligence and social listening platform. Her key responsibilities include strategy and developing insight into how the PR, communications and media industries use technology.

Photo by Alfred van der Zwaard on Unsplash

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