Relationships in times of crisis

In the last few weeks, life stood still in a way I have never experienced before. The absolute silence, contemplation, reached me around the end of March, after the lockdown was already a few days old. The sky was blue and clear, the air pleasantly fresh. The sounds I perceived were limited to the singing of the birds in the garden, music from the radio and the different dial-up tones of Zoom, Teams & Co. Real, analogue conversations were only between family and close friends, and the longer the lockdown lasted, the more my customer meetings changed. Crisis everywhere.


This diffuse fear, the scary images. Shocking moments. Besides the family and working on different projects that could not be postponed. It was a challenge to be always at the start, not to let up, but to continue and finish the work successfully. Everything was feasible, also due to the many years of experience to work remote and fully digital. What hardly worked anymore, however, was to maintain contact with media representatives. The editorial offices were empty and there were only a few contacts left whom I wanted to contact by phone even in this situation. Empathy and compassion were more important than some stories.


The central concern of every PR department is to have good and cultivated relationships with the media and organizations. Even the English term – public relations – literally means having official relationships. Therefore, in times of crisis, it is important to review and, if necessary, readjust relationships. PR is responsible for relations with media representatives, so it is the duty to maintain relations even in such a crisis, but how? The Corona crisis has further intensified the situation in the media: many journalists are on short-time work, print runs are falling into a bottomless pit, advertisements and budgets are frozen. So what happens now?


If, as feared, many media do not survive the crisis, they will increasingly need to produce their own productions in order to cover corporate topics. Also because access to media representatives is now becoming more complicated, more elaborate and therefore more expensive, alternatives are needed. Media relations should not be neglected under any circumstances, but it is likely that only the really big and important stories will find their way into the media. The task will therefore be to know exactly which stories can develop the necessary power to move people and therefore also the media. What helps are insights, data and the feeling for topics that become important. The orchestration of measures – also distributed among different stakeholders – will become the main task of PR. What must not be forgotten, however, is that our society still needs the independent media landscape. My idea, therefore, is to confront clients with the media crisis right now and to work together on concepts that show collaboration possibilities. The media need advertisements or turnover through events, but if companies are not currently placing advertisements or attending events for the foreseeable future, then new ideas and cooperation are needed that are profitable for all parties involved.


Experiments are important, so is the joy of new tools and techniques. However, PR must concentrate even more on carefully managing the remaining budgets, especially now. Forward planning, rapid implementation, analysis of data from the digital ecosystem combined with the aim of providing media with stories that ensure reach, insight and enjoyment for readers, could help get through this crisis.


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