Covid-19 has sparked the greatest “war” since the Second World War. The global battle against an invincible and invisible enemy has put governments and each and every one of us under tremendous pressure, hitting right at the hearts and minds of every person or organisation.
The immense disruption brought on by Covid-19 has certainly awoken the marketplace. It is fast changing the way people think and act while businesses are also rapidly adapting to survive the economic impact of the pandemic.
In this regard, the accelerated shift towards digital is perhaps the most apparent disruption caused by the pandemic. People, including the mom and pop shop owners, are transforming their businesses to the new ways of connection and communication.
Similarly, the PR profession is not immune to this global crisis. It needs to reinvent and reform or be left behind by the “new normal”.
The Need for PR4.0
The PR industry has been reinventing itself over the decades. In recent years, the rapid pace of change has steadily forced the industry to move beyond its traditional domain, which is usually associated with media relations.
Today, the market requires the PR and Communications industry to reboot and become “PR4.0”.
PR4.0 is where communication is no longer just two-way or a dialogue between brands and consumers. It is now multi-direction, channel and social. In fact, stories are co-created by all parties and even media organisations require the support of communities and citizen journalism to fuel the news cycle. There is no longer a clear distinction between the story teller and the audience. In fact, PR 4.0 is integrated, mixing different communication tactics – both digital and non-digital – in order to connect with audiences. This affects all the stages of communication from strategy, planning, to the implementation of the process itself.
Moreover, Covid-19 has also added new layers of economic, health and safety challenges to the global marketplace. Now as the crisis transitions from a health focus to an economic focus, Covid-19 is expected to keep market conditions volatile in the short to mid-term. The uncertainty impacts audiences psychologically. Within such an environment, people are looking for steady leadership and certainty.
As such, PR4.0 is anchored on a purpose-driven imperative. It will be the game-changer to future-proof organisations and brands. This shift has been happening in the past few years, leading to the emergence of new ideas and expectations. However, most are still unaware or have yet to realise that “profit with a purpose” is set to sweep the marketplace at an accelerated pace post-Covid-19.
This presents a situation where brands and organisations need to reinvent themselves in order to remain relevant to audiences. A commitment to “reform” and “reimagine” for the new marketplace will help brands and organisations reach target audiences with the right content at the right time in this new environment.
Time to Purposefully Reform, Reinvent, Reimagine
Moving forward, consumers and stakeholders will certainly expect the marketplace to change. There is no going back to “business as usual” prior to the pandemic. Certainly, there are already signs of increased demand for companies and brands to operate with a “soul”. A recent Investor’s Watch survey interviewing 3,750 wealthy investors across 15 countries by UBS revealed that three quarters of investors anticipate permanent lifestyle shifts, with two thirds saying the pandemic has altered how they think about their finances.
Interestingly, the survey showed, while millennial investors are most concerned about having to work longer to make up for losses, having enough money saved and losing their job in the current environment, they want to see their money make societal impact. The data also indicated that 69% are interested in sustainable investing and 60% in philanthropy due to Covid-19.
On top of that, governments are now reviving their respective economies through various stimulus packages by investing in long-term development plans for the country, including sustainable infrastructure and human capital upskilling post-Covid-19. Again, this reflects the commitment from many of us around the world to change for the better.
The Power of “Why”
Brands and organisations need to dive deeper into their purpose to win in the post Covid-19 market. The power of “why” will certainly help organisations and brands recover from this crisis and reinvent for the future. The purpose-driven imperative, which must be sustainable in the long term, must fit the dreams of the people within the organisation, while generating meaningful returns for shareholders and – at the same time – must have a genuine and authentic commitment to our planet.
The Covid-19 crisis is indeed our greatest opportunity to reboot the way we do businesses. This may perhaps be a rude awakening but there cannot be a clearer signal to all of us to “reform” and “reimagine” our businesses.
Against this backdrop, PR4.0 must focus on steering a purpose-driven narrative for brands and organisations. No doubts, this will be the expectation of consumers and stakeholders. By putting purpose right at the heart of what we do right now, it will certainly put us on the winning path towards market leadership.
Andy See Teong Leng is the Founder and Managing Director of Perspective Strategies . He is also the President of the Public Relations and Communications Association of Malaysia (PRCA Malaysia).