In mid-March 2020, the government, for the first time, announced restrictions on mobility due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The term used is Large-Scale Social Restrictions (Pembatasan Sosial Berskala Besar, or PSBB). At that time, many parties were confused. They do not know what to do. What is clear, at that time, we began to experience a lockdown.

At that time, we also started to run what is called Work from Home (WFH). Get used to communicating remotely via video. The problem for many users is that apart from the need for hardware, a stable internet connection is a requirement for smooth conversations.

It’s been 19 months since we started the “new normal”. As part of the service sector, the public relations and communications industry are dependent on more extensive business activities, whether in the manufacturing, finance, or trade industries. As the first reaction to the PSBB, activities that require physical presence have stopped. The communications industry, whose business is primarily physical in nature, such as event organizers, is indeed threatened with business continuity.

Interestingly, based on a report entitled “PR in a Pandemic” launched last July by the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR), the UK’s leading professional association, some PR activities have actually increased. Areas that are experiencing increasing demand are issue communication and crisis communication. Those who can take advantage of the increase in demand are those who can quickly switch to online communications. Other areas that have also seen improvement during the pandemic are internal communications, stakeholder relations, strategic planning and social media relations.

It should be noted that not all of the reported findings also apply to Indonesia. It’s just that there is no comprehensive and in-depth research in Indonesia, so “PR in a Pandemic” can be a reference. The prominent factor found by CIPR is that those affected by the increase in working hours are generally the PR staff of corporations. The work became heavier and the working hours longer. In addition, senior executives are generally more susceptible to reduced earnings than junior staff.

One thing that almost all experience is working from home or WFH. In the UK, 94% of employees in PR work from home, compared to 75% outside the UK (it is not clear where). One thing that is becoming a common phenomenon globally is mental disorders caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. This adds to the pressure to achieve a general work-life balance. It is recommended that employees do not hesitate to speak out if the pressure is too heavy because the mental burden is a severe problem.

Professional Reputation
Although physical activities (off-line) are increasing, the experience of working online also brings benefits. Productivity is higher. Positive impacts on the environment include reduced air pollution and fuel savings. Therefore, in the future, the combination of working at home and the office is expected to be maintained even after the pandemic is over.

At first glance and anecdotally (not based on scientific research), it can be concluded that, in general, the findings of CIPR in the UK have many similarities with those in Indonesia. The mental burden is a phenomenon that is also common here. Likewise, there are advantages for companies or agencies that are ready to do work online, which we can also observe here.

It may be a bit difficult to find an equivalent in Indonesia because there has been no research in that direction regarding reputation. Based on the CIPR report, it was concluded that the reputation of professionals in the field of PR experienced a significant improvement during the pandemic. Even an increase in reputation is seen as the most significant positive impact of this pandemic due to the increasing demands on this aspect of business life. Overall it can be concluded that COVID-19 has affected the PR profession as well, and although there are some negative aspects, there are also many positive things.

The big challenge that Indonesia may face is predicting a third wave of COVID-19 transmission at the end of the year. So far, we can go through the first and second waves. With more and more public members being vaccinated, it is hoped that even if it happened, this third wave would not be worse than the previous wave. Thus, we expect to welcome 2022 with higher optimism than the pessimism and foggy atmosphere we experienced a year ago.

 

Noke Kiroyan
Chairman & Chief Consultant, Kiroyan Partners

This article has been published in PR Indonesia magazine 79th Edition, issued on October 2021, page 56-57.

 

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