By Colleen Dolan
For many, including myself, starting a job in the pandemic has been different. You may not get to meet all of your coworkers face-to-face, and you might miss out on big events and being able to network in person. Fortunately, a panel discussion hosted by my new employer provided important perspective about the “new normal” for public relations practitioners.
Hosted by The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations, four PR industry leaders discussed what the profession might look like in 2023. Each of our panel experts talked about the changes the pandemic has brought to communications and how those changes will affect the future of our industry.
Rich Jernstedt, President & CEO of The Jernstedt Company, moderated the conversation with three other industry leaders. The conversation ranged from talking about blurring the lines, to working from home, to the continued importance of DEI, to technological advancements, and finally to how we can prepare now for 2023.
Blurring the Lines
When asked what’s happened to the world of communications in the three years since the pandemic of 2020, Flavia Vigio, VP, PR & Corporate Communications of HBO Latin America responded, “I think that some of what will have happened by 2023 with communications is an acceleration of something that I think was already happening and that’s blurring the lines between communications, marketing, diversity, CSR… the lines will be a little bit more blurred & there will be a lot more importance given to communications [in 2023].”
For his part, Andy Polansky, Chairman & SEO of IPG’s Constituency Management Group and Executive Chairman of Weber Shandwick, suggested that the role of a communicator will have become even more important.
Work from Home
Nicholas Ashooh, Senior Director of APCO Worldwide, then spoke to how much easier it will be to take advantage of talent because there won’t be geographical constraints. Although many people will eventually return to the office, there was a lot of talk about how there may be a large portion of people who will continue to work from home indefinitely.
One of the things companies have learned from this pandemic is that people are very capable of being productive and engaged from home. This encourages companies to broaden their horizons and not limit their hiring pool to a geographical location, which means more potential opportunities for new graduates and young professionals.
Diversity also played a large part in this conversation, as it’s vital to our industry. Ashooh noted that, “companies basically understand that if they’re more diverse they’re going to make better decisions… but I think now they are really paying attention to it in a way that perhaps they weren’t before.”
Flavia Vigio agreed, noting that businesses understand that, “The more diverse you are, the better you will do economically.” She followed this with a fictional example about a food production company. “If you don’t have a woman on your board, it doesn’t make sense.” Without representation, you won’t be able to successfully target your audience. She also noted that although diversity is improving, it’s not happening quickly enough.
Technology also quickly emerged as another theme, with all experts mentioning how technology will continue to play an important role in the advancement of our industry.
“Technology pervades everything we do, and that too will only become more and more the case… We’ll continue to evolve in interesting ways,” said Polansky, a sentiment with which the others agreed.
When asked what advice they would give to themselves in 2020 to prepare for 2023, Polansky brought it back to technology, reiterating how important it is to stay up to date on new advancements. Vigio said she would cultivate as many relationships in person that she could and build trust in that person so it’s easier to work from far away. Lastly, Ashooh said he would invest in new technologies and double down on purpose and engagement.
For me, my advice is to take advantage of your time. Many people aren’t commuting right now, which for some means an extra two hours a day. Take that time to better yourself – whatever that means for you – whether that’s learning a new skill, or learning how to relax and spend more time with your family. Do something that you’ll look back on in 2023 and be happy about.
The first Fall Forum panel, Communication in Three Years, can be streamed on the Center’s Facebook Watch here.
Stay tuned on The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relation’s Facebook page for more #FallForums to come.
Colleen Dolan is the communications specialist at The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations. Originally from Brooklyn, NY, she ventured down to The University of Alabama for her undergraduate degree in public relations and her master’s degree in marketing. Before returning for her masters she gained some agency experience working at a fashion integrated communications firm in New York.