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The Pandemic is Changing Professional Services Communications, And That May be a Good Thing

Broadcast has always been the hardest medium in which to secure opportunities for clients. The reasons are numerous, including its focus is narrower than a daily newspaper’s, commentary openings are time-sensitive and go quickly, and they often require a trip to the studio – a friction point. The last point has changed, dramatically, and maybe for good. It is now expected that every professional services spokesperson has a webcam and some level of Zoom (or equivalent) proficiency. For broadcasters, it is also now not expected that every on-camera source be made-up and lit to the highest standard. Many of us are Zooming from our living rooms that have been converted to classrooms – and that’s OK. From our perspective, media outreach now regularly includes more broadcasters. We’re less concerned about getting clients to TV studios or arranging for crews to visit offices. The general acceptance of lowered production standards in broadcast actually is part of a broader, even pre-pandemic, trend of “casualizing” communications.

In the early-to-mid 2000s, paper was still king. Working in-house at a professional services firm, my duties involved layout (on Quark), coordinating production with printer vendors and envelope stuffing of client alerts and newsletters. (As a reminder, the internet existed at this point and email was already a thing.) Around the time of the Great Recession, more and more firms started shifting to email communications, as protestations from more senior partners gave way to cost efficiency and a grudging acceptance that everyone was reading on their computer or their BlackBerry/iPhone. Glossy stock became an email template, and arguably, production “quality” at best shifted and at worst went down. The move was in keeping with the times, and we have never seen a return to the paper days.

The shift from paper to email client communications meant that turnaround time was greatly reduced. Client alerts could go out the same week — or even day — the developments occurred. We’re starting to see a similar shift emerge on the video side. In addition to freeing up commentary sources for quick turnaround broadcast opportunities, fluidity with technology and comfort with being “on camera” is poised to push more professional services firms to experiment with “novel” (to their industries, anyway) offerings such as Facebook Live webinars and Instagram stories. From a communications perspective, this is welcome. Technology and its associated distractions have made all audiences moving targets, and professional services firms need to go where the eyeballs are. It’s not even inconceivable to see a day when the emailed client alert morphs into a Facebook Live session.

The fallout and changes from this unprecedented period aren’t fully known yet. But, no doubt professional services communications are being impacted and will look different. The adoption and use of technology and social media have been sped up by necessity. This isn’t a bad thing. While handshakes and hugs (hopefully) will return, our old way of communicating, and associated production standards, may not.

Michael Bond

Blattel News

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