In mid-March 2020, the government announced mobility restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic for the first time. The term used is Large-Scale Social Restrictions (Pembatasan Sosial Berskala Besar/PSBB). At that time, many parties were confused. Were not sure what to do. What is clear, we began to experience a lockdown at that time.
That was also when we started what is called Work from Home (WFH)—getting used to communicating remotely via video. The problem for many users is that apart from the need for hardware, a stable internet connection is also 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 communication industry depend 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 communication industry, whose business is primarily physical in nature, such as event organizers, is certainly threatened in terms of business sustainability.
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 an increase in 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 experienced an improvement during the pandemic are internal communication, 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 corporate PR staff. Their 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 people 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 health 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 up if the pressure is too heavy because the mental burden is a very serious problem.
Although physical activities (off-line) are increasing, the experience of working online also brings benefits. Productivity has increased. Positive impacts on the environment occur, such as reduced air pollution and fuel. Therefore, in the future, a 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 ready to 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. The increase in reputation is even seen as the most significant positive impact of this pandemic due to the increasing demands from this aspect of business life. Overall, it can be concluded that COVID-19 has impacted the PR profession as well, and although there are some negative aspects, there are also many positive aspects.
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 hope to welcome 2022 with higher optimism than the pessimism and foggy atmosphere we experienced a year ago.
Chairman & Chief Consultant, Kiroyan Partners
This article has been published in PR Indonesia magazine 79th Edition, issued on October 2021, pages 56-57.
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