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In these unprecedented times, we’re all experiencing rapid change in both our personal and professional lives. In addition to adapting activities to safeguard our health and the wellbeing of those around us, finding ways to keep your business in front of your customers is also important. 

The current situation has led many firms to place greater value in media relations than ever before. While sales teams may not be able to get in front of prospects, PR—in the form of supportive media coverage—still can.

The challenge is that a crucial weapon in the PR armoury has been significantly blunted by the current crisis: media introductions. This is a particular issue in Asia, where in-person meetings between reporters and business leaders have traditionally formed a central pillar of communications programmes. 

Face-to-face, relationship-building activities have always counted for a lot in a culture that values social connections. Drastic restrictions on meetings have put this direct interaction on hold.

All around the world, we have been pivoting our media relations programmes to suit this new operating environment. One tactic is proving to be particularly successful—the virtual roundtable.

Roundtables have proven hugely popular as an effective way to share knowledge and insight into a particular topic. Switching the format online allows this communication to continue—providing reporters access to information and opinions, and clients the ability to keep building meaningful relationships.

The success of a recent virtual roundtable in China, during the height of the country’s near-total lockdown, and others like it that we’ve run since, demonstrate how accelerating digitisation is a trend that is no less true in PR as it is in many of our clients’ own industries.

We moved the whole event online using existing technology, ensuring we had materials and an agenda that would both suit the online format and encourage discussion. The outcome was indicative of the effectiveness of the format, with over 20 pieces of coverage in mainland Chinese media.

And so it seems that one of the more permanent consequences of the pandemic will be more activities happening online.

In Asia, this is probably more of a transformation that in other parts of the world, but it’s no less significant. Now that reporters have got used to meeting spokespeople virtually—and spokespeople are more adept at handling online interactions—we envisage much more happening like this in future, even once meeting restrictions ease.

While face-to-face PR activities will undoubtedly return once the pandemic is past (and I certainly hope they do), it seems that many of the changes we’re experiencing will be here to stay. Those who can get ahead of this trend now will find themselves in the strongest position in the future, wherever they are.