One in a series on Relevant Trends.
How to survive COVID-19 dominates newspaper conferences and headlines in 2020, but as the pandemic continues a new urgent issue apart from capturing revenue is emerging.
It’s mental health.
The care of people’s well-being is becoming a more important factor, albeit a tough one, as the pandemic drags us into a ninth month of lockdowns, uncertainty, and continuing to work remotely.
Adding to the anxiety is the raised awareness of an expected second outbreak during the winter and what that could mean.
Concerns about mental health was a somber Relevant Point during the Oct. 21 panel discussion on “COVID Recovery” by the Lineup Thought Leadership program.
The consensus among the panelists from the United States, England and Ireland is that asking for and needing help should be out in the open and companies can’t get tired of asking, “Is Everyone OK?”
Investing in people for media companies includes making sure you have a strong Human Resources staff or point person. The Axios@Work newsletter even offered this big picture:
“HR departments across the world have pulled off the incredible feat of turning companies from in-person to remote overnight, and as the pandemic continues to determine the future of work, HR has been elevated from a back-office function to a C-suite conversation.”
Newspaper staffs will see more programs address mental health, including those focused on helping weary reporters covering the pandemic — as trusted journalism remains in big demand by readers and communities.
The workforce of the future likely will be a blended or hybrid one based on the pandemic experiences — the flexibility of working at home combined with coming into the office when needed or desired.
Amid the mental health concerns, more people also acknowledge that getting to spend more time at home has been a good thing, even if work and home lives now mesh into one.
Staring in July, COVID-19 has been the keynote at newspaper industry conventions and conferences. Individual webinars by associations or companies have added to the exploration of solutions and this-point-in-time discussions.
Early on, the focus was on figuring out how to work remotely and recover from a huge decline in April revenue as businesses and economies shut down.
The rush to working at home surprised a lot of managers in how quickly and smoothly it occurred. Those companies with crappy computers and terrible technology struggled, however.
Empathy became an early attitude to adopt when dealing with clients whose businesses were closed and employees forced to adopt Zoom and Slack as new tools. (Remember this Relevant Point?)
We also saw a wave of reductions in publication days, the stampede to apply for relief from the government, technology giants and foundations, some newspaper closings, and initial cost-cutting, including furloughs.
During the summer, newspapers were finding success with revenue programs where advertisers applied for “grants” that matched spending dollar-for-dollar to increase their ad presence. (Related blog item.)
Another positive occurred online as digital subscriptions soared at many newspapers. A regional editor at a major chain remarked that newsrooms finally realized the Internet wasn’t a fad.
One of the best summaries of COVID-19 and 2020 was offered by Neil Brown, president of the Poynter Institute, during America’s Newspapers’ Pivot 2020, a virtual convention.
(Pivot, by the way, competed with flexible, agile, adapt, shift, unprecedented, reboot, replan, relaunch and rebound for the keywords most used by presenters and panelists.)
Among Brown’s key findings:
- *Marketing budgets and advertising are down.
- *COVID-19 changed media behaviors, with more streaming of video and greater use of social.
- *Publishers are finding markets for new products, with newsletters becoming more valuable in many ways.
- *Paid subscriptions can grow, even as the “COVID bump” subsides.
- *Audience want a broad content and are craving non-coronavirus stories and material.
- *People are feeling isolated, looking for opportunities to build relationships with businesses and brands they trust.
- Brown then provided several interesting “key takeaways” for the audience to act on.
- They included:
- *Depart from the “island of crisis management” and “begin strategy anew.”
- *Overcommunicate, overcommunicate, overcommunicate your goals. (He may have said it a few more times, but you get the point.)
- *And when the goals change, overcommunicate they have. (See his SMART goals slide.)
- *Believe in the distinctive. “Do it and make noise about it.”
- *Stop doing things by doing other things.
- *Ruthlessly pursue priorities.
- *Invest in your people — “they want a culture of personal growth.”
- *”If you customer service sucks, you lose.”
He added: Print is now distinct. But don’t let that dull your innovation as the world is digital.
Presentations like Brown’s are invaluable because we are being pushed to reinvent our businesses and to fight harder for sustaining revenues.
The backdrop is that we can’t ignore the unprecedented times.
You know it’s weird when people are already lamenting there will be no Christmas party at work this year.
And an advertising leaders says a silver lining in the pandemic is hiring really good people from a publication that had to close.
That observation made this comment, repeated several times during conferences, stand out:
“When we come out of this, we’ll be stronger.”
Yes, take care of the people.
It is super-Relevant.