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With some counties and countries facing and dreaded “second wave” of coronavirus outbreaks, while some of us are still fighting the first one, it can feel like this pandemic will never end. But there will come a day when all of this is behind us, and we are marching forward into a world free from the oppressive grip of pandemic… but also a world that’s changed because of it.

Most experts agree that COVID-19 is here to stay on some level, but that doesn’t mean it will always be the same level of threat or at the forefront of every news cycle. All indications are that, at some point, it will meld into part of life for most people. That is likely not for some time yet, though, and it’s that uncertainty that has a lot of people questioning and rethinking their PR programs and plans for the new year.

The public relations industry as a whole has taken some hits due to layoffs, lost contracts, furloughs, and shifting dynamics in almost every avenue of communication between entities and audiences. While there is still a need for strong and effective PR – there’s a new crisis in the headlines every week and countless other stories that go unreported – that doesn’t mean post-covid PR will look the same as it did before the world heard the name COVID-19.

One of the primary dynamics reshaping the future of public relations is the number and the type of conversations that are happening, as well as the tools that are being used. People are interacting more and they are doing so in different ways. Tens of millions had never or rarely used virtual conferencing software before spring of 2020, and now many are using these communication tools very frequently.

There’s a more casual and consistent connection between many audiences and the brands that want them as fans, and that’s not the only proximity shift. Many PR professionals are connecting more with their clients, working through these “unprecedented times” with new and innovative ideas based on tried and true communication tactics. These dynamics are creating stronger connections between communicators and their clients, and these brands and their customers.

Meanwhile, the nature of much of this communication has shifted as well. When speaking to a nation in crisis, where stress and fear are hanging over hundreds of millions of people every day, a softer, more empathetic touch is necessary. The tone and nature of narratives shifted. Aside from the political, which continued to be mostly negative, many messages felt more positive, optimistic, and appreciative. People reached out more and asked for less.

There were, of course, difficult questions to answer, and some of these are still on the table in one form or another. Throughout this year, brands and communicators have had to determine how saturated their communication would be about COVID, a question that has required multiple resets and reassessments. How often they would talk about this “difficult time” and in what way they would address the massive elephant in the room. Now, those questions have shifted a bit to “when should we shift away from addressing or acknowledging the pandemic entirely?” For most, that’s a wide open question with no easy answers.

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Ronn Torossian is the founder and CEO of 5W Public Relations, one of the largest independently-owned PR firms in the United States. With over 20 years of experience crafting and executing powerful narratives, Torossian is one of America's most prolific and well-respected Public Relations professionals. Since founding 5WPR in 2003, he has led the company's growth, overseeing more than 175 professionals in the company's headquarters in midtown Manhattan. With clients spanning corporate, technology, consumer and crisis, in addition to digital marketing and public affairs capabilities, 5WPR is regularly recognized as an industry leader and has been named "PR Agency of the Year" by the American Business Awards on multiple occasions. Throughout his career, Torossian has worked with some of the world's most visible companies, brands and organizations. His strategic, resourceful approach has been recognized with numerous awards including being named the Stevie American Business Awards 2020 Entrepreneur of the Year, the American Business Awards PR Executive of the Year, twice over, an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year semi-finalist, Metropolitan Magazine's Most Influential New Yorker, and a 2020 Top Crisis Communications Professional by Business Insider. Torossian is known as one of the country's foremost experts on crisis communications, and is called on to counsel blue chip companies, top business executives and entrepreneurs both in the United States and worldwide. Torossian has lectured on crisis PR at Harvard Business School, appears regularly on CNN & CNBC, was named to PR Week's "40 under Forty" list, is a contributing columnist for Forbes and the New York Observer, and his book, "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results With Game-Changing Public Relations" is an industry best-seller. A NYC native, Torossian lives in Manhattan with his children. He is a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO), and active in numerous charities.