No matter your industry, there’s nothing like having a global pandemic rattle all of your chains at once and force you to face situations and make decisions with no precedent on which to guide you. But in an always-changing, adapt-on-the-fly field like PR, the challenge was both completely unpredictable and par for the course.
Nevertheless, there’s no doubt that the COVID crisis generated an ongoing and possibly long-lasting impact on many aspects of communication, working environment, and multiple business sectors. And now that we’re looking from the other end of the tunnel, it’s critical to explore how communication professionals adapted to COVID’s impacts, and led to successful communication and transitions during this challenging time. A new special report from The Plank Center takes a deep dive into that perspective,
The organization designed a section of the 2020-2021 North American Communication Monitor (NACM) focusing on the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact to gather information on several key issues related to communication professionals’ responses and challenges in communication practices. These key issues include the perceived impact of the pandemic on communication professionals’ daily work and working environment, trusted sources they used in keeping up with the pandemic, and COVID-related information used in planning, preparing and responding to the pandemic. Professionals’ satisfaction with their organization’s communication and management during the pandemic also was assessed.
Communication professional’s attention to COVID-19 news
Overall, clear evidence is found that the COVID-19 pandemic is a heavily discussed topic in the United States and Canada (83.2 percent), and communication professionals in both countries have given attention to the news about the pandemic (75.0 percent). The comparison between professionals in the U.S. and Canada reveals attention is more prominent for professionals in Canada. Although professionals in general agreed that the pandemic affected their daily work significantly (65.8 percent), those in Canada acknowledged a much higher level of impact from the pandemic (70.9 percent).
COVID-19 affects men and women differently
Gender comparisons reveal that women perceive the pandemic as a heavily discussed topic, but men report a significantly higher level of perceived impact of the pandemic on the daily work of their communication department/ agency (70.0 percent vs. 62.3 percent based on frequency analysis, Chi-square test, p < .01). Professionals working in communication departments at public companies report a significantly higher level of direct impact. Results also show a significant correlation between leadership and perceived direct impact. For example, those holding a top leadership position as head of communication, or as CEO of a communication agency, report the highest impact of the pandemic on the daily work of their communication department/agency.
Diverse sources were used for COVID-19 information
Communication professionals also use diverse sources to gather COVID-19 information. The top five common sources for COVID-19 information include public health organizations and officials (72.0 percent), national news outlets (69.2%), local news outlets (61.9 percent), state and local elected officials (59.9 percent), and international news outlets (57.3 percent). Consistently, public health organizations and officials are the most trusted source for professionals to acquire information.
COVID-19 communication and the satisfaction level
Overall, seven out of ten communication professionals are satisfied with their organization’s communication and management during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the satisfaction level significantly decreases as the scope of the leadership responsibility decreases: four out of ten team members are neutral or unsatisfied. Professionals in governmental organizations report the lowest level of satisfaction.