As the country slowly starts to “reopen,” two key and highly visible industries remain largely stuck in limbo – sports and entertainment. Billions of dollars have been lost as all major sports have been paused and museums of all sizes have closed their doors. Considering the adage “out of sight, out of mind,” compounded by the universal mental stress and strain caused by shutdowns and mass layoffs, staying relevant to audiences and finding ways to grow one’s brand awareness is an urgent challenge – and one with lessons for professional services companies.
On May 28, the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) livestreamed a panel discussion, “Connecting During COVID-19: How Entertainment & Sports Organizations and the Media Are Staying Engaged,” hosted by Shawn Warmstein, the Vice President of rbb Communications. The panelists included: Janet Smith, Vice President, Brand Communications, for the Atlanta Hawks; Kevin Iole, Combat Sports Columnist for Yahoo! Sports; Jewel Wicker, a Freelancer for Billboard and The Hollywood Reporter; and Shauna Wilson, Director of Communications for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (HOF).
Each of the panelists outlined how they’ve pivoted their strategies – from Smith’s team setting up programs for feeding health care workers, to Iole and Wicker writing stories on the human-side of the athlete/artist, to Wilson opening up the HOF’s video vaults for fans. The common theme throughout: recognizing the uniqueness of this moment and adapting activities and offerings accordingly.
Similarly, professional services companies have also made on-the-fly efforts to keep clients and prospective clients engaged. Although their work was not “shutdown,” these past few months have not been business as usual.
The pandemic has created a scramble for business owners confused about finances, regulations, compliance and, more recently, how to navigate retaining staff. In light of these uncertainties, professional service firms have made a tremendous effort to develop COVID-19 resource centers populated with content addressing key questions and pain points. Not only have the resource centers been a way for firms to provide valuable insight, they’ve also enabled firms to promote their expertise in various and emerging areas of law, accounting, construction, etc. A key pivot seen is the level of proactivity: rapid-fire news summations and analysis have become the norm.
Some professional services firms have also taken it a step further and conducted short surveys to get a gauge on the top operational and recovery concerns of their clients and the industries in which they operate. Seeking more direct feedback from clients has allowed firms to understand today’s challenges, as well as anticipating those looming on the horizon. A client or industry survey isn’t a new idea, but the rapid rollout of one is – especially for traditionally slower-moving professional services firms.
The pandemic has reminded professional services providers of the importance of entrenching themselves in their clients’ businesses and industries. Maintaining client relationships – and, like sports and entertainment, staying visible – is paramount to retain and develop business, both now and in the future. Showing an understanding of what a client is going through and being able to provide the appropriate professional guidance can go a long way. Should we go through this again in the fall or winter, clients will remember the companies that adapted to find meaningful ways to engage with them during a challenging time.