Living through a global pandemic this past year is a time we’ll never forget, and it’s taught us all many valuable lessons both personally and professionally. While I certainly wish we were well past the pandemic, one thing that has become abundantly clear since last March is public relations is fundamental to every organization.
It’s fairly common for people to think of PR as “spinning” information to make individuals or organizations sound better than they are. Any good PR person will tell you it’s the exact opposite. It’s about informing audiences with accurate information, keeping them engaged and telling factual, compelling stories.
Perceived cost can be a prohibiting factor. Small and mid-sized companies may not be able to invest as much as larger organizations, but no organization should avoid communicating with stakeholders. If an organization can’t communicate well, it risks harming its image, confusing its audience and creating dissonance in the community – something most organizations would gladly pay to avoid.
The past 12 months have proven this to be true. When the pandemic first hit, Sabo PR was one of the first calls clients made. Everyone was scrambling and seeking help communicating their COVID-19 response to stakeholders. All of our clients simultaneously needed memos to employees, letters and talking points for customers, signage for facilities, social media posts and copy for the websites. We worked nights and weekends to accommodate these requests, as well as producing videos and drafting press releases and media statements.
Think back over the past year on how you received information about COVID-19 and how you altered your behavior as new information became available. While health experts and governmental leaders provided the subject matter expertise, it was the role of communications professionals to ensure the information got to you in a timely fashion, in language you could understand and through channels you followed.
Beyond just communicating, our work helped reinforce best practices and change behaviors. From wearing a mask, practicing physical distancing, encouraging people to get tested and stay home, sharing operational changes and new safety protocols, monitoring virus outbreaks, planning for return to work, updating on vaccines and so many other storylines that have come out of the pandemic, it was communication team members who kept you informed so you could make the right choices for your health – and the health of your community.
In grad school, I was introduced to the concept of metacognition, which is essentially being aware of your own knowledge, or lack thereof. Many simply refer to this as “thinking about thinking.” In terms of communications, if we become more aware about how we stay informed and think about the people who produce content and the work that goes into it – there will be a better understanding of the importance and usefulness of PR.
COVID-related or not, the next time you read a news article, watch the news or see an interesting post from an organization you follow on social media, chances are a PR person is behind it in some way. And, unlike the pandemic, our commitment to keeping you informed will not go away anytime soon.