Coronavirus has changed the world forever and the PR industry is certainly not immune to the fundamental shifts it is making to every aspect of our lives.
At the start of the shutdown in mid-March, PRWeek ran a quick poll to assess initial impact and feelings about COVID-19 and the prospects for PR.
Seven weeks on and the business and social landscape has changed fundamentally. Over 36 million Americans have been added to the unemployment register, the death toll due to the virus is fast approaching 85,000 and 1.4 million people are reported to have been infected with COVID-19.
PRWeek’s Coronavirus Survey 2.0, conducted in early May, received 280 responses, almost equally split between the client (51.8%) and agency (48.2%) sides of the business. It represents the most thorough and credible analysis of the impact of the virus and the implications for the future of the PR industry.
The comprehensive survey covers infection rates, budgets, layoffs, furloughs, payment terms, financial assistance, offices of the future and the return to work.
The survey was predicated on an assumption that most PR professionals are working from home, which doesn’t apply to 100% of individuals.
Some people are still conducting their business from physical environments — whether that is an office or other location.
The survey also didn’t acknowledge the fact that some people already work from home and the lockdown experience wasn’t particularly new for them, which is fair comment.
However, in general the survey shed a bright light on what the pandemic has meant for PR pros so far and what it will bring in the future. As the country tries to plot a safe return to work and a restarting of the economy, the short- and long-term effects of the pandemic are taking shape.
- Almost half of respondents have been directly impacted health-wise by COVID-19; 18% have team members or family of team members who have died from COVID-19
- Clients: Almost 64% reduced PR budgets, one in three significantly. Agencies: 77% of clients reduced retainers; 90% postponed campaigns, 83% canceled activations
- Almost four in 10 clients imposed extended payment terms during COVID-19
- One in five agencies laid off staff and instigated furloughs; 11% of clients
- Only 30% of respondents applied for Payment Protection Program loans
- New world of work will include: social distancing, virtual workforces, daily deep cleaning, screening, temperature tests and work-life balance
- More than half of respondents believe they will return to the office in June or July
As one survey respondent noted, “nothing is certain” and there will inevitably be “lots of unknown future planning” on the horizon.
However, the resilience of the PR industry has already been on full display throughout the crisis and PR professionals are used to acting nimbly and swiftly to deal with unexpected circumstances.
As another respondent said, crises like these and the resulting recessions are formative periods that shape careers: “The pandemic provided unique media pitches and anyone who is navigating it is part of an unprecedented opportunity to add to his or her life resume by working in this environment.”
For in-depth results of the survey, click here.
This story originally appeared on PRWeek.com.