The Covid 19 outbreak is proving to be a huge blow to the Indian economy, which was already reeling under a slowdown since the last two years. With most businesses in a tailspin, the public relations community has also been hit hard. The success of a PR firm is aligned to the business objectives of a brand or a corporate entity. Currently, existing clients have limited cash flows to pay their current employees and are finding it hard to release payments to their firms for services in Public Relations, Influencer Management and Social Media Management. Survival in 2020 is the biggest challenge for any human being or a corporate firm, and PR firms need to adopt new measures for retaining current clients, growing their businesses, and keeping their employees engaged.
The pandemic is a global humanitarian crisis and a position of empathy must be adapted to all current promotions for existing clients. Sustaining clients can be difficult, and few clients may even suddenly start finding faults with your work. One of the options that can be adopted, in such cases, is to offer additional services to clients, to what has already been committed to be delivered in a given timeline. For instance, if you are providing PR services to a client, you can offer social media management, as an add-on without a separate charge, or offer this service at a small, additional fee. It is essential to let the client know that the additional service is only a temporary arrangement. Further, business development teams can negotiate and reduce the fee of existing clients for a temporary period with clear contractual terms to come back on original fees, with extended retainer timelines. Also, proactively connecting with clients to ensure client satisfaction and high-quality delivery is the need of the hour.
For organisations to have high quality delivery in PR, it is important that the people who are involved in daily operations are motivated to perform their best. For this, foster a sense of belonging in employees during this epidemic and improve the overall communication within teams by encouraging conversation and collaboration. Technology is an important player here and frequent video calls who would assist in bridging any gaps. Also, Team Leads can build a visual scoreboard to promote team collaboration and share their progress. Sending regular performance-based email messages will help in better understanding of improvement and success areas. Having some fun and playful activities such as virtual offsites, hobby showcases, etc can undoubtedly make employees more productive, making the Work-from-Home setup, a happy arrangement.
Professionally, I took this time to introspect and initiate opportunities for growth, including learning new skills such as Digital Media Marketing. Large corporations can look at this time for investments in their employees and encourage them to upskill themselves by joining online courses related to creative writing, editing, leadership, social media management & similar.
This may also be a good time to reach out to as many people or potential clients as possible. It may not necessarily result in immediate business or financial gains, but it is essential to be visible in the eyes of the owners for diverse businesses and showcase your past work. In the pandemic, corporations in the Pharmaceutical, Healthcare, Insurance, Banking, Online Education industries need services to streamline their external communications and the business development teams of PR enterprises can organise their outreach efforts to provide core services that would support these industries. The effort to build new relationships will yield dividends when the economy bounces back to at least pre-Covid levels.
There are several ways to tackle the retention of clients, growth of business and ensure employee engagement. The truth is all firms, big, mid-scale or small are currently experimenting to paddle their way through this crisis. There is no right formula for success here, however survival in 2020 is a reality and acceptance of the situation is important. The PR business, and indeed the whole world, has seen much tougher challenges and crises in the past and has invariably come out stronger than ever before.
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