Don’t go back to normal

Recent developments have us cautiously optimistic that things could be “back to normal” soon. How soon depends on which experts you follow.

Whenever that day comes when we can live and work without COVID-induced constraints, I encourage you not to automatically revert to your previous way of working. And to start making related decisions and plans NOW (while we keep wearing masks and distancing and waiting for our turn to receive the vaccine).

One of the great developments in media relations I’ve observed during COVID is PR pros and journalists being way more real – on a human level – with each other. Pitching pros who show some vulnerability and empathy in their pitches are getting sincere responses. That doesn’t need to go away when there isn’t some generational crisis that unites us. But if you let bosses or clients assume that you’re going to “really scale up” your pitching after COVID relents, by the time that blessed day arrives you will be locked in to meet their pre-COVID expectations.

Working and meeting in-person definitely has specific advantages over doing so virtually. But not enough to justify reverting back to the assumed 50-hour workweek in the office. There are lots of hybrid models that will likely work better for you, especially if you have a long commute. It’s on you to start planning and discussing NOW what your workweek will look like later this year. Otherwise your bosses may simply assume you’ll go back to spending two hours of every weekday in traffic.

You may have radically adapted your business model or workflow in 2020. Which elements of change have actually turned out better for you? Stick with them! Pre-COVID I did about one-third of my business through in-person events. I liked travelling to new places and being with people and feeding off their energy. But during the last 12 months I’ve relished focusing solely on my Inner Circle, and customer delight (and revenue) has grown accordingly. Now that I’m looking ahead to a fall speaking season that could be nearly “back to normal” as perceived by many partners and clients, I’ve resolved I’m going to be highly selective about which invitations, if any, I accept. That’s important to act on now, so I can communicate that in advance so that clients don’t get stuck and so that I don’t get locked into engagements before I know all my options.

It’s cliché to look for the positive while dealing with adversity. But the amazing thing about clichés is that most of them earned that status because they embody enduring truth. If I could erase the pandemic, I’d do it in a second. But since I can’t, I want to look very carefully at what positives emerged from working in a new way so I can preserve them.

I’d love to put together a list of adaptations that PR pros will preserve post-COVID. Would you be so kind as to share one with me?

This article was originally published on February 24, 2021

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