What’s Old Is New Again: How COVID-19 Is Changing Public Affairs

Some new and old thinking has been required to find creative solutions to adjust to the realities presented by COVID-19. Just like World War II drove technological advances, the pandemic is spurring change as we all adapt to the new normal. Since March, we’ve seen musicians throw concerts on Instagram for fans stuck at home and give drive-in concerts over the summer as people began to venture out more. Restaurants and retail have pivoted to curbside pick-up and contactless delivery services. And the public affairs industry has also seen its share of new and old tools emerge to meet a diverse set of needs for clients.

Many industries were in crisis as the pandemic set in – responding to abrupt change and looking for new ways communicate with employees, customers, stakeholders and their communities.

Zoom, Webex, Microsoft Teams and other online platforms have been the focus of much conversation, but many other tools have come to the forefront as the public affairs industry has transformed in response to the situation. In addition to a growing reliance on online tools and social channels for communication, some older tactics have become our new go to’s to help our clients stay connected.

For one, interest in tele-townhalls – a totally virtual event that may not have been widely used outside of politics – has reignited in full force. It’s now a necessary tool that not only connects members of Congress, other elected officials and public figures to their constituents, but businesses with their customers, hospitals and care providers with their patients and the community as the need to communicate over different platforms to reach wide audiences became more important.

Direct mail had taken a back seat to digital advertising in marketing and advocacy budgets in recent years. As people continue to stay home, direct mail has reemerged as an effective alternative to reaching captive audiences.

Nearly six months into working-from-home for millions of Americans, many organizations are completely shifting their outlook on returning – or not returning – to in-person work. Most in-person events are still cancelled so webinars and other virtual events have taken center stage as millions continue to work from home with no clear end in sight. Trade associations accustomed to in-person fly-ins are now adapting to virtual conferences. Organizations gearing up for their annual fundraiser have had to move to online forums.

Moving forward, the name of the game for many organizations will be to find new ways to make virtual gatherings unique and special. In this new world of utilizing virtual platforms to execute necessary conferences, fundraisers and the like, a bigger premium may be put on publicists who can bring “talent” to participate in these events. Maybe groups will even explore adding tangible items to their virtual events – like a coordinated ‘event pack’ delivered to participants of the same virtual gathering. If Zoom and Webex are indeed here to stay as our ‘new normal,’ public affairs strategists will likely see an uptick in requests from organizations to help keep their respective virtual worlds new and exciting.

Here at PLUS, we’re meshing old with the new, new with the old, and adapting to a constantly changing public affairs environment. We’re helping clients run virtual events, rebrand for a potentially different economic or regulatory future and highlighting ways they can achieve success in the face of all of our ‘new normals.’ We’re up to the challenge to continue serving as a leader in the public affairs sector for all of the unknowns that lie ahead.

Learn more about how PLUS Communications can help your organization or campaign navigate the ‘new normal’ and succeed by contacting us.


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