What The “New Normal” Means For Public Relations Agencies And Client Relationships

“The new normal. These unprecedented times. Post-pandemic world.”

I can already hear the groans. Grossly overused phrases like these have been shoved front and center —and for good reason. COVID-19 has ignited the need for conversation around the changing world and workplaces that have seen their evolution kicked into overdrive since the start of 2020. 

Massive shifts in human behaviour, from social interaction to shopping, have happened. In the world of work, perceptions around work, workspaces and flexibility have drastically changed. This, no doubt, has also had a knock on effect on how businesses engage with their partner agencies. Beyond the obvious increase in “digital engagement” (read: horrifying week long Zoom call marathons), the Public Relations industry has also witnessed a greater shift at its very core — client agency relationships. 

This is simply because many businesses, regardless of whether they are seeing success or stumbling down a path of failure, have understood that something needs to change as they look around at a world in crisis. In most cases, management heads have turned to their Public Relations department. 

What this has resulted in is a growing portfolio of responsibilities that most public relations professionals have not dealt with before, leading to more public relations agencies getting pulled in closer to deal with these increasing amounts and varieties of work. 

HR or PR? Does it matter?

One such area in particular, typically the realm of Human Resources, is employee engagement. We have seen a major shift in mentality behind workplace flexibility, which has had a huge effect on productivity, company values and culture. A quarterly townhall can no longer suffice, and public relations teams have had to prioritise putting together communications and content strategies to engage with their own employees — or risk suffering from increasingly fractured company cultures and dwindling productivity. 

Businesses working well with their partner agencies can leverage their capabilities to develop messaging, communications assets and content to support wider initiatives focused around culture and training. With external communications playing a key role in employer branding, this knowledge can also be leveraged by agencies to support their clients’ employee engagement strategies. 

Communicating for profit

Playing a deeper role within business development has seen an emergence on the list of priorities. Sales and marketing teams are siding with public relations in an effort to shift problematic perceptions that are affecting sales and open doors to new industries or market segments through communication strategies. 

To achieve this, public relations teams need to have clear discussions with their separate sales and marketing teams to understand their wider business goals and targets. Through close partnerships with agencies, strategies can be developed to tackle these business targets or perception issues through the development of research reports, for example, and the subsequent earned and paid amplification through public relations and marketing tactics. This tighter collaboration can be delivered entirely through digital channels, and can support business development strategies for growth. 

The New Normal

In addition to the shift in traditional public relations duties, this growing scope of work for public relations professionals has cemented the need for closer collaboration with agency partners as well as other areas of the business.

This tighter relationship will help businesses and their public relations teams keep focused on strategies that will support their business and, without the need of unrealistic amounts of new headcount, still have the arms and legs to deliver large complex campaigns across multiple areas of their business. Such collaboration is no longer just a way to survive COVID-19, but is necessary to thrive and ensure success in the “post-pandemic world”.  

Need help navigating this post-pandemic world? Write to us at [email protected]

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