How comms solutions and services believe PR has changed from COVID-19

Many solutions providers are trying to use their expertise and tools to help organizations deliver better messaging during the global pandemic.

Businessmen planning business strategy while holding puzzle pieces, creating ideas with light bulb drawn on paper and rearranging wooden blocks. Conceptual of teamwork, strategy, vision or education.

Brand managers aren’t the only ones looking to tackle businesses’ thorny communications challenges.

A host of tech companies and solutions providers hope to be essential partners and use their expertise to help communicators do more with less. Many are offering free services and discounts and seeking other ways to engage the wider community.

We asked them to share what they have to offer communications pros.

Our first question? “What is the biggest way communication (internal or external) has changed in the past two months?”

Ellen Feaheny, AppFusions: “Executive and team online communication in shared systems is no longer a nice-to-have.”

Jordan Yocum, Page One Power: “I was complaining about having to fill out another quarterly assessment for HR. Then it dawned on me how crucial these type of assessments are right now. … Even if it’s a quick “how’s everything?” to an employee you don’t see every day anymore. Keeping each other’s mental health strong is very important to work output and daily life.”

Agnes Molnar, Search Explained: “Internally, not too much. … We’ve been doing distance teaching for many years, but now we had to educate our clients and customers about distance learning as well.”

Janet Wilson, Logico Creative Solutions CC: “It has gone almost 100 percent digital”

Brian Collier, Nuvi: “As a customer experience and social media analytics software provider, we’ve witnessed how the pandemic has accelerated an overdue process to use social media channels more strategically. With stay-at-home orders … companies are looking for effective ways to understand new marketscapes, engage with their audiences, manage their brand through a crisis, and analyze how effective evolving strategies are once implemented.”

Dan Beltramo, Onclusive: “Both the need to provide and the appetite to receive communications has gone way up, especially for internal communications to employees working from home or on furlough.”

Darius A. Ross, D Alexander Ross R.E. Capital Partners LLC: “The face of communication has been forever changed by chaos. … The vast amount of information being received needs timely dissemination [and] accuracy, and above all the general public needs to feel confident that they are receiving quality, trustworthy and accurate data.”

Roger Maes, StatePoint Media: “Beyond the obvious necessity for PR pros to communicate what their organization is doing to assure employee and customer safety, our clients are wrestling with how and what to say in relation to their ongoing brand messaging. Do they do anything right now? If so, what and how?”

Matija Martek, Mediatoolkit: “Communications proved their worth. Many organizations switched to WFH without the time to properly prepare. Office workers in organizations with internal communications in place carried on with daily activities, occasionally interrupted by a dog bark, or a child during a meeting. Those with a slower response were left behind, uncertain of their responsibilities, which left many opportunities unattended. The good and the bad scenario quickly showed the value of communication in an organization and hopefully, elevated it, or at least defined it for the future, more certain times.”

John Seibels, PhotoShelter: “Internally, without the ability to walk across the office and clarify something, or get coffee with a potential partner, we have to ensure that the quality of our communication is at an all time high. At PhotoShelter, we are relying on video conferencing, chat, and creative collaboration tools, including our own digital asset management tool, Libris. We’ve also shifted our external communications as we work to create and share content that we know will be helpful to our audience of creatives right now.”

Irene Van As, IVRM Reputatie: “People seem to be more aware of the importance of being sensitive to the social context for communication, that formulating a message requires craftmanship and skills to choose the right words and demands corresponding behavior.”

Jason Etter, Staffbase: “Within our customer base alone, our publication rate of news increased by an additional 163%, readership increased by an additional 74%, and even weekend readership increased over and additional 150%. This is not about our product; it’s about the clear demand to receive information from their most trusted source: where they work.”

Megan Testani, Red Level: “Email fatigue was already at an all-time high, and the pandemic did nothing to help that. We were charged with finding ways to communicate without email that would suit the needs of our diverse audience.”

Brian Hayes, Lewis: “It started with incessant chats, emails and video calls, but gradually as people became overwhelmed with all the comms, people started cutting out comms that weren’t necessary and being more thorough with their emails to cover any potential follow-up questions/items and minimize back-and-forths. I’m definitely seeing people be more concise.”

Sam Keninger, Simpplr: “The sudden shift to work from home exposed how much we depend on in-person or tribal communication to stay productive and informed. Now … we recognize how connected within our direct networks but isolated from many parts of our own companies.”

Charlie Terenzio, Newswire: “I have seen the tone of corporate communications soften over the past two months. It is much less promotional and more focused on offering value or insights to help others during this difficult time.”

Kelly Batke, ThoughtFarmer: “Communication is more agile and ever-changing right now. It feels as though when we have a message to get out, that it needs to get out fast before the information changes yet again.”

Rebecca Dersh, Cision: “Brands have had to be even more transparent and communicative with their customer and target audiences. You’re seeing CEOs speak more candidly about struggles with their business, companies are sending communication about how they’re operating and keeping employees safe.”

Gregg Castano, NewsDirect: “Communication … is now entirely virtual. Additionally, it’s hard to recall a period in modern history in which the public discourse has been more one-dimensional and hyper-focused on a single issue. From a PR perspective, if the story you’re telling is unrelated to COVID-19, it doesn’t exist.”

Todd Grossman, CEO Americas, Talkwalker: “There has been an increase in messages about community, empathy, and togetherness [and] … in the use of storytelling that highlights statistics, as people turn to logic and facts to contextualize and comprehend the current situation.”

Jonathan Davies, Happeo: “Internal communications is the biggest source of untapped potential in business today. By optimizing the speed and efficiency of your internal communications, you optimize your decision-making, and that means increased agility. … Digital is a must, else it cannot scale and benefit global enterprises.”

Eliot Hoff, APCO Worldwide: “Communication has shifted towards more empathetic messages, very much focused on stakeholders’ unique experiences during the pandemic. While regular, noncrisis communications continues, what has really broken through is a narrative that respects the challenges of the situation and the more recent focus on businesses coming back stronger.”

Michael DesRochers, PoliteMail Software: “Significantly higher volume of email. Less meetings and no in-person conversations. Higher use of online conferencing (Teams).”

Austin Sandmeyer, Beekeeper: “For front-line industries in particular, the pace and importance of internal communications have increased significantly. Organizations need to ensure that their entire workforce is up to date on safety procedures, pandemic policies and resources. … [A]n accurate and timely communications channel is not just an operational issue, but a safety issue.”

Greg Galant, Muck Rack: “Many teams are having to shift to new methods of virtual communication and collaboration. PR teams … are having to learn new technologies to do everything. … With the media being saturated with COVID-19 coverage, it’s difficult to find the right angle that will resonate with the media, while also not seeming to be opportunistic or tone-deaf.”

Peter Walker, PublicRelay: “There has been a renewed understanding that clear, compassionate internal communication has positive external effects. Employers who demonstrate empathy for the well-being (mental and physical) of their employees are seeing those employees go above and beyond in assisting customers.”

Cathy Del Colle, Burrelles: “Budgets are shrinking, and executives are looking to cut operating costs wherever they can.”

Jennifer Friese, Business Wire: “Clients are not only trying to communicate consistently and transparently but being particularly thoughtful about communications.”

Sarah Casdorph, Aware: “[C]ommunication has gone almost completely remote. Organizations around the globe suddenly found themselves needing to connect employees, no matter where they were located physically. As a result, many accelerated rollouts of collaboration tools like Workplace from Facebook, Yammer, Microsoft Teams and Slack.”

David Benigson, Signal AI: “At Signal AI … the whole company meets once a week for open questions. We … listen to our teams around the world and the personal and professional challenges they may be facing so that we can help as a company, as well as plan for the challenges and adaptations we are making to our own company strategy.”

Joanne Skilton, Unily: “Perceptions of internal communications and value to the business have changed drastically. All of a sudden, leaders are turning to their IC teams to play an essential role in enabling business continuity.”

Duncan Smith, Beezy: “Social distancing and the ‘new norms’ have certainly changed the landscape of work and the way we communicate. The consumer-like behaviors, habits and applications that people use to communicate in their personal lives are being rapidly adopted and adapted by companies of all shapes and sizes. … [M]ission leaders have increased the quality and frequency of purposeful and empathetic dialog that underlines the shared experience of this moment.”

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