Cash burn, clients on wait-and-watch mode, budget cuts, deferred payments, fewer onboarding of new clients on one side and on the other heightened communication requirements from customers, shorter deadlines, and immense pressure to deliver and also from the confines of our homes! Sound familiar? Welcome to PR in a COVID19 world.
We are all amid difficult but interesting times. Client requirements are evolving with each day and what they need is a nimble, and adaptive PR partner that will respond to their needs with complete understanding of the situation and with precision. This is the good side of the situation we are in as we are continuing to stay relevant with differentiated services and helping our clients communicate in newer ways. Meanwhile, how do we keep ourselves not only afloat but also grow as a business?
One could assume the situation we are in will certainly get stretched and would require a business continuity plan for at least the next 6-8 months, so where do we draw inspiration from?
How about Donna Paulsen – the iconic TV character from the famous US legal drama series – Suits? Far from an ordinary assistant, Donna is unapologetic, full of ideas, focussed, persistent and displays exceptional problem-solving skills that we could take a leaf from too.
So here are top 5 things on priority that Donna would do:
- Protect people first:
Take required preventive measures for ensuring the well-being of employees first. Proactively communicate health risks and precautions that everyone must exercise from their homes. In addition, at ON PURPOSE we procured COVID-19 medical insurance for all team member, spouses and children.
- Keep ‘em close and stay relevant:
Build lasting customer relationships during and in the post COVID world. Empathise and listen more to your clients and to their needs. Brands will appreciate relevant and tailormade strategies in the current times and teams that are listening in to trends, market updates and are quickly responding with sound counsel and the right message dissemination. The world post COVID will also see a tremendous shift in consumer behaviour and choices including how they consume content or connect with brands and will require a real-time shift in how we approach PR for our clients.
- Help clients disrupt their own way of communicating with newer services and formats of engagement:
Now is the time for clients to rethink and reimagine their roles in the lives of their stakeholders; customers, partners, employees et al. It is imperative for them to not take a back seat but proactively reach out to their stakeholders and constantly communicate with them. Consult your happy clients on alternate areas of focus that should be an equal priority. Internal communications, employee communications, videos, newsletters, government relations and policy advocacy, crisis communications are areas many organizations need to start investing in.
- Re-prioritise your spends:
Go back to your drawing boards and look at every single piece of expenditure you incur and do away with discretionary spends that you can avoid: marketing budgets for the year, travel, negotiate your rental terms with your landlords for your offices et al. Be careful though, not to be penny wise and pound foolish i.e. don’t reduce costs if in any way it would impact the quality of work you are delivering for your clients.
- Utilize human capital efficiently:Freeze hiring if you can and try to in-source by either upskilling or look for more projects better suited to current skillsets. Move outsourced freelance work in-house as far as possible and provide your teams with all the support they need to do their jobs.
Lastly, let business continuity measures and approach not rest with your leadership alone, involve your teams to participate, hear them out and you will be surprised the ideas these young minds come up with! The ever-enthusiastic, always charged, and innovative minds at ON PURPOSE presented some of the most creative ideas that we cannot wait to implement for the next leg of our journey.
Here is a quick snapshot of how we let the teams bring out their inner ‘Donna’
- Launched a Business Continuity Challenge: What Would Donna Do (WWDD). Teams were provided a brief on the revenue and cost drivers of the company and were asked to come up with plans for cash flow and profitability management for the next 6 months
- External coaches were recruited to challenge the team’s ideas and provide constructive feedback
- A jury of senior leaders scored the teams based on 4 criteria:
- Disruption: How disruptive are the ideas? How strongly do they reflect a new way of doing business? Reframe our business model and differentiate from the traditional agency model?
- Feasibility: How easy will it be to implement? Doable? Less grief?
- Purpose-driven: How will it impact our ability to fulfill our mission to drive social change in India?
- Creativity in the presentation: How uniquely were the ideas presented? Engaging? Attention-grabbing?
Everyone on the winning team was given a voucher of INR 2,500/- to spend on any online training of their choice
Our success will be in how we implement the ideas suggested, as a team, together.
Stay tuned for more!
By Shalini Gunashekar