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How is the delay in opening up affecting PR and its clients?

Being resilient is a key attribute for businesses right now, and the extra four-week delay in everything opening up places further strain on everyone. Here PRs and business leaders discuss how they are coping.

Business is on ‘pause’

Carly Smith, freelance PR professional: “Many businesses have pressed the pause button on what they deem to be non-essential investment amid ongoing uncertainty, and until all restrictions are lifted once and for all, I fear that potential clients will be hesitant to begin fresh partnerships. I’m also finding that some existing associates are still unsure about meeting face-to-face, which I think is indicative of a wider, more cautious, attitude that is prevalent at the moment.”   

PRs need human interaction

Carly Smith: “Technology has really stepped up to the plate in enabling us to carry on working during these strange times and Zoom and Teams certainly have their advantages. However, for me, nothing beats the dynamism of an in-real-life meeting.

“PR is a people business built around smiles and handshakes - gestures which have largely disappeared since Covid reared its head. I miss the human interaction that our industry thrives on, and when ‘Freedom Day’ finally dawns I believe it will bring with it a new collective hunger for contact and collaboration.”  

We are being super flexible 

Mike Robb, co-founder of Boldspace:My biggest disappointment is that industry events and get-togethers still can’t happen, which we’ve certainly all missed. I have huge sympathy with everyone working in that space. But for us as a business, the main impact will be keeping our reduced office capacity in place for that little bit longer and ensuring people are encouraged to work-from-home if they can, whilst still giving them the opportunity to meet colleagues in-person in a controlled way.  

“We had a ‘long lunch’ planned for what was originally billed ‘freedom day’ on 22 June, and I am pleased to report that some swift rebooking of outdoor, rather than the original indoor space, meant the entire Boldspace team still shut laptops at 2pm for a well-earned company-wide social. Everyone in the business was hired remotely, so we had some serious social catching-up to do.” 

Always prepare for the worst 

Chris Reed, head of business development at life insurance brokers Protect Line “Another hit for retail, travel and hospitality businesses is the last thing any of us want to see. On the other hand, we know all too well the importance of ensuring we do not overwhelm the NHS. For many businesses, the lack of ability to plan will cause frustration. If businesses know what to expect, leaders can make appropriate plans. We're all now used to lockdowns, working from home and changing rules, but it's impossible to plan when decisive action is not taken by the government.   

“This almost inevitable delay will not affect our business as we have planned for the worst. To us, June always seemed ambitious and our priority is ensuring our customers can access the help they need. We feel blessed to be in the luxurious position to move to hybrid or office working once we're sure the restrictions have been lifted. Our friends, family and colleagues in other industries do not have such luxuries. We hope the government takes clear, decisive action and communicates clearly what it now expects the roadmap to look like.   

“We will continue to keep a two- way conversation going with our staff. Keeping everyone engaged in the conversation and ensuring everyone's voice is heard is imperative when there is so much uncertainty around us. Our business and HR leaders are very used to our current reality and our staff have been excellent at engaging in a really positive and collaborative fashion.” 

This will push businesses to breaking point

Lee Biggins, CEO and founder of independent job board CV Library "Over the last few months our job market data has consistently shown that businesses have been leading the pandemic recovery with boldness and optimism.  Whilst a delay in the lifting of restrictions may be necessary, it's imperative that the government and the general public continue to support the UK job market. The impact of an additional four weeks under restrictions cannot be underestimated. After 15 months of closures and limitations, this will push some businesses to breaking point."

We feel for the hospitality sector

Jessica Pardoe, senior PR Exec at The Source PR says: “I think we’re mostly gutted for the hospitality industry with the delay in restrictions, it’s been so hard for them and continues to be under the current rules and regulations. One of our clients opened in August last year, they’ve still not had anybody stand at the bar to get a pint (due to it being table service only). For many, this is what pubs are all about. The industry has shown fantastic resilience and we don’t doubt it will continue to. All the same, we’re looking forward to the day where we can PR our clients’ businesses fully reopening the way that they should.”

The government’s lack of clarity is unhelpful  

Rick Stainton, founder and group executive director of creative agency Smyle: “Whilst there is a general appreciation that a few more weeks of restrictions will support the fight against Covid-19, pilot data clearly show that festivals, weddings and other live events do not spread the virus disproportionately. This seems to have been ignored by the government, and the lack of clarity as to when the events industry can properly restart remains unclear. 

“If these announcements had come with a realisation of the impact further delay is having on live events, that might have softened the blow. Measures such as emergency short term financial support to venues, event organisers, suppliers and freelancers for the next few months would have been welcome (such as grants, extending repayment options for loans, cancelling business rates, extending support schemes such as furlough and the self-employment income support scheme). The events industry supports many elements of our society, so it’s important the thousands of businesses that comprise it are fit for purpose and ready to support the recovery, rather than remaining in survival mode.”

What is clear is that everyone in PR feels the pain of the hospitality industry, and is keen to help this sector as soon as they can by getting out there to mix and mingle. Until then, stay strong!

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