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No shortcut mantra to tackle lockdown blues

This article is part of the series #SupportEachOther, a campaign through which PRCAI aims to bring PR professionals from diverse verticals and different levels of experience onto a common platform for discussion. By spreading awareness and the use of storytelling, we aim to destigmatize mental health issues within the PR industry and start a dialogue to help and #SupportEachOther, in the midst of various professional challenges we are confronting because of the COVID19 pandemic crisis.

As I sit down to write this piece, we are already into over 25 days of nationwide lockdown.  Globally, Coronavirus cases have crossed 17 lakh, while the Indian tally is over 9,000. Economic activity has come to a screeching halt. Trade and commerce are shut. If and when the next paycheck/client payment will come from is a real concern for many if not all of us. To simply say that this is an uncertain situation is a gross understatement.

When it comes to Public Relations, which is anyways a high pressure and challenging profession with strict deadlines, and great, and many a times unreasonable expectations of both the clients as well as the media, the Coronavirus pandemic has given birth to new challenges such as insecurity, anxiety, and even depression. This is mainly because no one knows how long the lockdown will continue, and even if the lockdown is lifted tomorrow, how much time it will take for the situation to return to normal. Yet, the show must go on.

Like everyone else, we at Simulations are also working from home for the past several days. In fact, we were doing so a week before the lockdown started. Since the lockdown began, we have been having more team meetings than during normal times. I have been honest to the team and communicated that things are bad, and they will probably get worse before improving, but I have assured them that we are in this together.

At the same time, I have used this time as an opportunity to introspect, to look at the things we are doing right, things that we can do better, and even certain things that we need to stop doing altogether.

Since fancy acronyms seem to be in vogue these days, I recently came across what they call as RACE (Reduce, Augment, Create, and Eliminate) during a session by Faber infinite. Simply put, it means:

Reduce – Map your services against the competition, and reduce if you cannot entirely remove what is non-remunerative

Augment – How you can raise the bar by expanding the gamut of services to existing as well as new clients, and create opportunities for better remuneration

Create – Come up with offerings that other Public Relations firms and professionals are not offering, and which can allow you to carve a niche for yourself

Eliminate – Stop doing things that any Tom, Dick, and Harry can also offer, and instead bring something new and exciting on the table

Going forward, It only seems apt to me  to adopt the RACE mantra and will reconsider many of the things I am doing at present.

Since it may take some time before the situation improves, and there may be genuine monetary concerns, it is important to keep the morale within the team high. Try to allay the team’s fears if any. I also believe that this is the time when communication within the team and with all team members is extremely crucial. This will not only help you get a pulse of what the team members are thinking, but also make them feel wanted, and keep them motivated. Empowering them to take decisions is another way to make them feel valued, and this is something I have done throughout by two-decade long consulting career in the field of communications and PR.

Based on my experience, my advice to everyone is to look at this lockdown as an opportunity to learn, and unlearn or relearn, which will be useful when the situation improves. This is also a time to do things that you may have always wanted to do, but probably never had the time, opportunity, or inclination to do before. Make sure when you look back a few years from now, the lockdown does not come across as a wasted opportunity.

 

Shailesh Goyal
Director, Simulations Public Affairs Management Services Pvt Ltd