Every year I do a round-up in December but I think reflecting on the year is a better idea this year…

2020 started off like any normal year, but when the pandemic hit the UAE when I was in Dubai in January, I had a feeling it wasn’t going to pan out as a normal spring, little did I know the entire year would be thrown out of the window.

I want to share my reflections though, not dwell on what we already know.

Accelerate digital communication

I’ve been talking about digital transformation for some time. I’ve also been talking about integration of public relations across digital for over ten years. In fact, I had a Twitter conversation with someone recently which made me think back to when I started to do more than just media relations. The weird thing is, I’ve NEVER done only media relations. I’ve been working across integrated campaigns and projects since starting out in PR 20 years ago!! I was working on events, design, promotion, CGI (!), media relations, database development and more.

The pandemic has accelerated businesses moving online yes, but I don’t truly believe they have re-thought their entire business. It’s not as simple as just putting products/services online. The transformation needs to be around the products and services themselves. Selling online is only part of the process…

I’ve used the phrase, “don’t put a plaster on it”, in the last six months. My “Re-think, re-engage and re-ignite” campaign I launched in spring, is the perfect model to use for ripping off the plaster and reimagining your business.

Opportunity for PR to show its true value

In our own industry bubble we talk and main and debate the value of public relations, mainly because so many practitioners are so poor at evaluation (which we all know starts with setting SMART objectives).

Through the pandemic public relations has played a key role in building relationships, breaking down barriers, developing campaigns for behaviour change and most importantly, *trying* to maintain trust.

Consistent and clear communication was key. I think it’s safe to say this didn’t happen on many government or media levels, but where I’ve been most impressed is with businesses and how they have developed great strategies to engage stakeholders, communicate effectively during tough times such as redundancies. I’m so lucky to have a fabulous client list which trusts me to work with them both on their businesses and as individuals.

We’ve set clear goals, we’ve been realistic in terms of timings and outcomes, but more importantly, we’ve never been more connected. It makes me happy to think clients are comfortable just to check-in with me or ask for some advice on specific scenarios. Here’s to building on that in 2021.

PR has never just been about media relations

I think people now, more than ever, are beginning to understand the importance of integration. Integration needs better planning and it needs more budget, but it will reach the desired audience and the return on investment is much more clear.

I also think people now understand the speed at which public relations can work when it’s integrated. News goes out, email goes out to database, posts on social and immediate feedback! No more waiting for the paper to come out the next day!

Also the data which we can get from our channels means we can monitor effectiveness in real-time and then use that to amend, tweak, enhance and progress.

It’s the way I’ve always worked (minus social 20 years ago!), and it’s the best way to ensure all your stakeholders are engaged.

Looking back at my 20-year PR career, my brain is always looking for better and more engaging ways to do things, which rarely means only one thing, especially when there are so many opportunities to engage people.

My own business expansion

During the pandemic I was busy working on developing the new “Re-think” blueprint which was my lead in to securing more clients.

In addition, I realised that as an industry leader, I had a responsibility to make sure my fellow PR colleagues were coping ok. This accelerated my own plan to launch my mentoring and coaching plan, which I knew would be crucial for those who had been made redundant, those looking to help keep agencies afloat, or those starting out as independent practitioners or consultants. The plan looks at both the professional and personal side of things – after all, we’re all human!

Within the first day, I had filled all my places! I’m now recruiting for 2021’s first intake in February. Get in touch if you’d like me to help support your development or if you need some strategic advice about your team or business.

In addition, I had already started to record and sell my webinars online, which meant it was quick and easy for people to keep learning. My webinars are all built on personal experience and are highly practical. I will be planning more over the festive period, some live and some on-demand.

And let’s not forget PRFest, which took place in June. Next year will be the sixth year and I’m delighted to have recruited a team of amazing, diverse talent from across the world, to form a steering group. Lots planned for 2021 so make sure you’re following PRFest for the latest news and updates.

Communities support each other

I’m part of a number of communities and I also lead the PRFest community.

At the very start of lockdown, I started two new communities > #PRsUnite, to bring PR and communication professionals together, under the PRFest umbrella and #PRSurgery which was about bringing some small businesses together to learn how they could use basic PR tactics to help them keep on communicating with their customers.

Both were weekly and the #PRSurgery was co-hosted by my PR pal, @NakedPRGirl.

#PRsUnite is now bi-weekly and will move to a monthly model from January. #PRSurgery doesn’t happen anymore, but it’s something I’ll pick up on again next year.

As well as starting communities, I also joined some! Holly Tucker’s wonderful SME community is full of amazing small businesses with brilliant ideas. It’s a lovely place to hang out, help people and also get advice.

Resilience, quick thinking and positivity

One of the best things I’ve noticed about those around me has been the positive way the situation has been handled. In turn it’s made us more resilient, our quick thinking has seen more opportunities and the positivity has spread to our communities and people have felt supported as a result.

Wow. I love my virtual communities <3

I also think we’ve helped inspire each other. Through conversations we’ve help inspire each other to think differently, try new things and to have the courage to push for better. Well done everyone!

Mindset and mental health

And finally, one of the things I am talking about just now is that, despite the blow to so many that Christmas won’t go ahead as planned, we have to just accept it. We can’t change it. So use that energy to re-think your plans. Dwelling on something we cannot change will not be good for mental health and will most certainly not bring you a positive Christmas.

Let’s be thankful for what we DO have and for our health.

SAMH is a Scottish mental health charity and offers some good advice here. If you need to chat to someone, they also list where you can get support.

And on a personal note, I’d like to wish you and yours a safe and healthy Christmas, relaxing with time off and zoning out from everyday pressures.

Here’s to a better 2021, when things start to move in a more positive direction. I’m led to believe this will hopefully be around late spring, early summer.