JAKARTA, PRINDONESIA.CO – This is reflected in a survey conducted by PR INDONESIA to 103 PR practitioner, at the end of April 2020. As many as 24 percent of respondents admitted that the biggest obstacle during the pandemic was the obstruction of communication and coordination.
Followed by challenges such as budget constraints (16%), demands to always be creative in creating online activities (13%), signals (12%), unfamiliarity with adaptation, and limited space for movement due to the appeal to maintain physical and social distance (9%), many events postponed/canceled, but the key performance index (KPI) remains (7%), others (6%), and the focus of reporting is still about Covid-19 (4%).
Not being able to communicate and coordinate without meeting physically was the biggest issue that Eva Chairunisa, Head of PT Kereta Api Indonesia (KAI) Operational Region (Daop) 1 Jakarta Public Relations, felt at the start of the pandemic. The reason was that KAI as a public service was one of the industries that were most affected during the pandemic. Many government policies were later lowered to company policies and must be disseminated to the public. For example, ticket cancellation. At that time, KAI encouraged customers who wanted to cancel their trips not to come to the station. They could simply cancel the ticket through the KAI Access application. Eva and her team must also produce their own socialization materials before they are distributed to the media.
Agustini Rahayu, Head of Communication Bureau of the Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy agreed. "The challenge of public relations during this pandemic is to calm the public by presenting balanced information," she said.
According to Buceu Gartina, Head of Public Relations and Protocol of the Tangerang City Government, the toughest challenge for government public relations at this time is to convey information, socialization, education, to change people's behavior such as worshiping at home and not going to their hometown amidst many limitations. "We do not just socialize the rules, but it must be accompanied by the socialization of law enforcement or sanctions," she added.
Meanwhile, vaccine producers such as PT Bio Farma (Persero) were receiving a lot of attention during the pandemic. Being active in conveying the latest developments and opening up access as wide as possible is the key so that the public can obtain correct, accurate, and accountable information.
On the one hand, the public attention that is centralized to the news about Covid-19 has become a dilemma for PR when delivering information related to company achievements or information outside of Covid-19. "The solution is to return to the basic principles of the company. Our company conducts business based on the 5C principles: community, country, company, climate, and customer,” said Anita Bernardus, Deputy Director Corporate Communications of APRIL Group.
Meanwhile, Jojo S. Nugroho, Managing Director of IMOGEN PR, admitted that he felt uncomfortable when communicating with clients virtually. Especially if he has to exchange ideas in order to find out the client's needs for a long period of time via Zoom and its challenges.
For example, bad signal, delay when speaking or presenting. "It’s like there is a lack of chemistry. It's better to meet directly and have coffee together, ha-ha! " said the man who still felt uncomfortable making a contract agreement via telephone or video conference.
Budget cuts are also the second biggest obstacle experienced by PR practitioners. Jojo and his team, for example, were forced to renegotiate services. There were even projects that were discontinued because the client company's operations were stopped during the pandemic. "What is important for us now is to get assurance from clients. We also prioritize cash payments which process is quicker and the payment is guaranteed to be paid so that cash flow is maintained," he added.
Budget cuts and the large number of people who carry out activities from home, including work, have made PR practitioners choose to move activities that were off-line to on-line. This is where PR creativity comes in. According to Agung Laksamana, the Chairman of the BPP of the Indonesian Public Relations Association (PERHUMAS), there are three important mantras for PR in facing the new normal era.
First, adapt. Adapt to the new normal. Second, adopt. Adopt changes related to time, budget, content, and explore new channels. Third, adept. After going through these two processes, PR has become increasingly proficient.
Moreover, KPIs continued to run during the pandemic. "In terms of digital KPIs, the frequency is actually increasing," said Boy Kelana Soebroto and the team, Head of Corporate Communications of PT Astra International Tbk. "We are forced to continue to be creative because the show must go on," said the Deputy General Chairperson of BPP PERHUMAS III.
Jojo added, “Don't wait for Covid to end first in order for us to act. It could be that when the pandemic is over, we will also end (close)," he said. According to him, just start first, don't be afraid to take risks. "The process is indeed not easy, uncomfortable, and requires hassle. If you can't move on your own, then collaborate,” said the man who is the Chairperson of APPRI.
Yes, collaboration is an equally important keyword after adaptation in this pandemic. Just like IMOGEN PR collaboration with an agency that has expertise in multimedia/video mapping when a client wants to make a webinar via Zoom as attractive as watching television. "Maybe what we offer is a 'dime' project for those who are experts in multimedia and used to working on big projects. But this is the momentum for us to have ample space to learn from each other," said Jojo wisely.
There are many lessons learned. One of them is new opportunities. The experience of holding virtual events can be a promising business opportunity in the future. "It could be that later there will be a new business or section called virtual event management," he said.
Demands for digitization have flooded agencies with requests to tidy up or increase traffic on social media and official websites so that the company's reputation is maintained during the pandemic. "The opening of doors from the company to employees to take part in on-line training while working from home is also a new market that we catch and can work on," he added.
Agung actually assessed that the pandemic has made the engagement between PERHUMAS members throughout Indonesia even stronger. The opportunities to communicate, share knowledge, and collaborate are endless.
They also realized the importance of PR in networking, doing mapping to find out each other's needs and strengths so as to create connections and collaboration.
For the Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy, the pandemic is perfecting the crisis communication contingency plan that they have so far. Even in academia. The pandemic has prompted campuses to produce increasingly relevant policies. They are increasingly adaptive to the distance learning process based on information technology. In the end, it is the pandemic that has forced us to understand what disruption really means. (ais/rtn)