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Maxim Behar for Capital: How PR Business Will Change After the Pandemic (5 forecasts about the future of the industry)

A significant number of the different industries worldwide are blocked and many of them might not start again with the products they have made so far. On the other hand, services, although secondary business and dependent on industries, investment, and trading, seem to be able to adapt to new conditions quickly. The PR business will have some brand new elements which have long been ready to happen and have now gotten an unexpected and irreversible acceleration

1. During its ICCO Summit in 2015, some five years ago, speakers forecasted that in the future 70 percent of the public relations business activities will be done from home. This has already happened and it seems that this percentage will be surpassed after the quarantine worldwide ends. Working from home, or a nearby park or coffee shop has thousands of benefits, and all of us, who spend our days now in online video communication platforms, have already started believing in it. Everything is more pragmatic now, with a huge amount of saved time, emotions, and efforts for personal meetings with clients or partners. Undoubtedly, time takes first place in my list - for transportation, parking, waiting. Pragmatism is the keyword in this business, and we were all easily convinced that in half an hour conversation we can do more work than having an hours-long meeting.

2. The end for the so-called one-man-show PR consultants has come and only the companies with the fastest reaction and with well prepared and multifunctional teams will stay on the market. These are the ones who can manage several social media channels simultaneously, provide a numerous amount of services focused among one or two people, and last but not least - who can look beyond their client’s everyday problems. The future will be filled with insecurity and potential crises, many of which will come as a surprise and will be unpredictable. These crises won’t be managed by ordinary intermediaries between the client and media (be it social), but by visionaries, who will react on behalf of the client during the seven days of the week and the 24 hours of each day.

3. Developing and maintaining corporate brands will become one of the main activities of every PR company. In a difficult to predict and highly tense period, consumers will search for brands that they can rely on and that has an impeccable reputation when it comes to prices and quality. Undoubtedly, more than ever the brand will guarantee the quality of a product or a service. Namely, because times in which everyone will pay close attention to expenses are coming, high trust in brands will assure them more customers. This will certainly require a much better relationship between the client and the PR companies’ experts - they will take way more privileged positions in the clients’ boards and will be given way more authority.

4. The merge of the three main pillars of the public communications business – Public Relations, Advertising, and Digital - has now happened irrevocably and way faster than expected. in practice, once the world is out of this incredibly hectic situation, there will only be one business without it even having a name. Corporations will start paying much more attention to targeted and interactive advertising, as well as their costs. This logically means that advertising budgets will gradually transfer from TV towards social media, where the focus is naturally on content. Even now part of the content management for clients is done by the PR agencies, which soon will be entirely handled by them. PR companies will lead in the future united business and there are three reasons. Firstly, they can manage content creation; secondly, the PR business is responsible for crisis management, and thirdly, brand management is also in the hands of the PR experts.

5. The Event Management business goes down in history. Not only because gathering many people together at the same place will be considered dangerous years ahead. Recent months have proven that an online event produces far greater results than such on-site. What’s more - it saves you expenses, time, and logistics. To organize a quality event in Zoom, for instance, you only need a few hours, an interesting topic, good and influential speakers, and a well-organized database. Only half a year ago the same event would have been way more expensive, and in fact, it costs almost nothing now, would have taken a lot more time to organize, and would have naturally been much more difficult to stream online immediately for those who couldn’t attend.

Indeed, compared to just ten years ago, when out of a sudden several billion people on the planet ended up with (social) media in their hands, which revolutionary altered the PR business upside down, the current changes won’t be as extreme. Following the traditional press releases, the event management business is disappearing forever, but, on the other hand, the business moves out of the offices (which is also a small revolution) and acquires a whole new dimension by taking a significant part from the business of advertising and digital agencies.

This all means that the PR business will come out of the crisis stronger, but also transformed. To sum up: the time for multifunctional visionary companies, full of knowledgeable people who can make quick decisions, comes.

About the author:

Maxim Behar is CEO & Chairman of the Board of the M3 Communications Group, Inc. (www.m3bg.com), a partner of the International corporation Hill+Knowlton Strategies. He is past President of Global PR Organization ICCO and since last year is President of the World Communication Forum Association in Davos, Switzerland. He graduated from Harvard Kennedy School and also Universities in Prague, Seattle, and Yokohama. Behar is the author of several books in the field of communications, the last of which is The Global PR Revolution, published in the USA and Bulgaria. 

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*The article was published in Bulgaria's leading business newspaper Capital on April 25, 2020

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