Renna Markson is Engagement Director at the PRCA, she has a background in client services and marketing and has worked with the PRCA for over 3 years.
Originally from London, Renna spent 10 years in Sydney, before returning home.
What feedback have you had from your members on how the ‘lockdown’ and Covid-19 is affecting their business?
We ran a survey 11th-15th March asking PR professionals their view on the outbreak. This was before the PM’s announcement on 16th March, where he warned us to work from home if possible and avoid non-essential contact.
Our survey revealed that 33% of PR professionals believed the industry was underprepared for the outbreak. At that time the most common responses to the outbreak were working from home and cancelling events.
As time has gone on, we feel that our members have become used to the new way of working, as well as navigating the different communication platforms, however the uncertainty of the future is still very prevalent.
These concerns are also dependant on the sectors our members specialise in. Some, especially those in travel, were negatively impacted right from the start, however the government’s financial support has since helped ease some fear.
What effect has the crisis had particularly on your independent consultant members?
According to the PR Census, freelancers account for 9% of the PR workforce, approximately 9,000 professionals. We have been in touch with the cabinet office to ensure their interests are protected. The government has listened and has worked hard to develop a financial package that supports freelancers. There are concerns over how soon the support will become available and this is situation we will continue to monitor.
We are currently offering 6 months free individual membership to freelancers who have seen a significant loss income. We will continue to support independent consultants throughout.
How is the PRCA supporting the industry?
We have made changes to our existing services so that they are relevant and appropriate during these restrictions, and we have also added new initiatives.
Our face-to-face training is now taking place in a virtual classroom, and all events are now online as well. We have launched a Covid-19 Taskforce, made up of senior PR practitioners, to provide free support to the industry during this crisis. In addition to this, we have shared discounted or free offers from our partners and third parties, which we have made available to our members on our dedicated external Covid-19 support page
We are collaborating with other industry bodies to work together to ensure we provide as much support a possible. We have written two joint letters to the Chancellor, for further support for freelancers and small businesses.
We are aware of the impact that this period may have on people’s mental health, and we are encouraging PR practitioners to make use of the PRCA’s Mental Health Toolkit which includes a free counselling phone line.
The PRCA is here to support our members and the industry, and we will discount our services wherever possible, and provide as much free support as we can. We’re also offering 35% off all virtual classrooms and 50% off all webinars across April and May.
What do you predict to be the long term effects on the industry and working practices as a whole?
This period has shown that we can work smarter and more efficiently using different tech platforms, while also avoiding unnecessary business travel. The industry will see more remote meetings, especially now that everyone has been forced to learn different online meeting platforms. Indeed, nothing can replace the value of face-to-face interaction, but I still expect this approach to lighten. This new reality we face has also made people think differently about working from home, and so companies may start to embrace the virtual model more too.
For PRCA we are learning new systems and ways to be more agile. We will look to offer more hybrid events to improve accessibility for those not living in the host city.
How are you personally coping and managing work?
I find that I am working more efficiently. I live on my own, so there are less distractions and there are so many communication tools out there to support this way of working. I have been very busy, so the time has been flying by. From the beginning, I set up my new “workstation” in a permanent position, and I make sure that I stick to a routine. So far, so good!