On 10th April 2020, the World Communication Forum Association Davos, led by Maxim Behar, immediate past President of the International Communications Consultancy Organisation (ICCO), moved its Communication Forum online for the first time, in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis and subsequent global lockdown. As a member of ICCO (which represents 41 associations bringing together the communication and PR agencies of 66 different countries), ftc communication took part in the Zoom conference. As Maxim Behar pointed out ahead of the event, “(…) public communications are changing literally every day and we must keep an eye on those changes constantly”.
The online forum brought 145 PR experts from 41 countries together and focused on one main theme: “Crisis in Societies, Crisis in the Industry”; this topic was discussed around three axes, “How to Support Clients in Difficult Times”, “New Challenges and New Opportunities for PR Business”, and “Online Education: a Breakthrough in Modern Communications”.
There was a wide consensus among participants and panelists that the PR industry was about to undergo deep changes, as it finds itself for the first time of its history in the midst of such a worldwide crisis. Talking about the clients’ point of view, a common opinion was that the need to prove the PR work value will be greater than ever – a move that could prove difficult for the most junior PR staff around. This demand to prove the added value of the work done is likely to come with an increased demand for tools to actually measure it.
On a positive side, companies might realise their vital interest in communicating on their good corporate behaviour during and after the crisis. Corporate behaviour is one of the cornerstones of corporate identity, and now more than ever, companies may need to communicate on how they behaved responsibly and ethically during and after the Covid-19 crisis. The PR industry can provide innovative ways and approaches to help corporations fulfill these new expectations.
Ways to communicate are likely to be impacted too, as digital tools have proved their immense value during the crisis and might lead to a move away from big advertising and communication budgets towards more targeted, niche approaches. On the topic of education in particular, it was pointed out how digital tools had made a real breakthrough that nobody had foreseen, paving up the way for new ways to engage online. Although it remains perilous to make predictions at this point for the industry as a whole, participants noted that although this crisis could be disastrous for some, the majority should survive it; with some even managing to make the most of it by drawing on the very specificity of the PR industry – its flexibility and capacity to adapt.