A couple of decades from now, communications students world over will study the subject as the pre-pandemic and post-pandemic phase. We learnt the genesis of PR and the role the world war played in shaping it. Future students of PR and Communications will study the role of COVID-19 in changing the community landscape.
Paid, earned and owned media, the perfect tools of marketing, are currently facing shakeups. Paid media in India has almost come to a standstill due to advertising revenues drying up. Print editions of newspapers are becoming slender. Television channels focused on entertainment are digging their archives to re-telecast as new programmes are difficult to produce during the lockdown. Print and Television account for more than two-thirds of advertising in India. A recent report in a business newspaper pointed out that advertising during the summer months is about Rs. 20 billion with significant contributions coming from tourism, FMCG, Durables and F&B. This has dried up due to the pandemic.
India considered as the last print bastion may finally surrender to digital and TV much more rapidly than before. How much of the current slide will it be able to reverse post-COVID remains to be seen. Are TV channels able to rebound faster than print once the lockdown is lifted and advertisers are back on the air?
At this moment, the future looks bleak for media professionals and advertising firms. The consultancy ecosystem that has hundreds of smaller firms are struggling to stay afloat. Their voice is muddled as the Indian Newspaper Society (INS) and News Broadcasters Association (NBA) are batting for their members’ (print and broadcast media owners) survival.
They say habits die hard. The pandemic may be successful in changing some of these habits. Some of the readers who are used to reading the newspaper early morning in its physical form will probably become comfortable without it. Some viewers who were earlier watching movies and serials on Television may not return to TV and instead, be comfortable watching it on their mobile.
How will these developments impact earned media and the ecosystem that depends on it? PR firms who always believed the future is digital may make the shift seamlessly. It will be interesting to see how firm that are small and catering to the local market will drive their business post-COVID-19. Consultancies, small and big, need to reskill and upskill their teams. And in quick time.
Lines between earned and paid may blur further in digital space. PR firms transforming into digital marketing firms and digital marketing companies taking on digital PR for their clients may become the new norm. Pure play PR consultancies may be passé.
The strength of digital the way we see it today may become its weakness in the future. Any individual or entity with a significant follower base that is relevant to a brand is an influencer for that brand. As more and more monies are pumped into digital marketing and PR, marketing professionals will demand more granular data to track the effectiveness of their spends.
This phase is also the perfect phase for brands to understand the importance of owned media. Nothing is more permanent than their own platforms, be it their website or social media, to build and harness.
The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.