Working Through Covid-19: Survey Results & Webinar

The membership of the PRII was surveyed in June 2020 to gauge the effect the Covid-19 pandemic has had on the working lives of members and the profession more generally.

A full report of the results of the survey by Development & Research Manager Frank Condon is available in the Members Only area, by clicking here.  You will need to login with your user name and password..

This outlines how the pandemic impacted those working in-house and in agency and how the focus of this work changed since March 2020. As well as how members foresee the way they will be working in the months to come.

Members were asked a number of questions relating to work life balance, the nature of their current work, how their communications work has changed and how they foresee it changing as a new normal develops. They were also asked questions around their expectations around returning to work and their sense of their future role.

Further to this, 25 members joined us on Friday 10 July for a webinar on the findings of our recent survey of Covid-19 related issues. PRII’s Development and Research Manager Frank Condon delivered a detailed presentation of key survey findings with contributions from Emily Maher, MPRII, Communications Manager, Deloitte North & South Europe; Tina Quinn, MPRII, Director of AM O’Sullivan PR , Cork; and Padraig McKeon, FPRII, President of the PRII and Independent Consultant.

The survey gives a clear picture of how the pandemic has affected our working lives - the majority of members report that they are working more hours than normal and 60% said that prior to March they did not have the option to work from home. Finding a distraction-free space in which to work comfortably at home proved to be an issue for 40% of respondents.

The survey also indicates that work in certain areas of communications has increased. Noting the reported increase in internal communications work in Ireland, Emily Maher, MPRII, whose team work right across Europe, spoke of the work they have done on communicating the impacts of Covid-19 on the business to employees, and the role that they could play.

She told how their managers took care to call each of their team members, sometimes every day in the early days of WFH, to check on their well-being.  Local Deloitte teams took over local communications in each country, primarily because of the differing regulations and timelines in each. She also explained how their storytelling approach played a key part of this.

Emily also said that her European colleagues were complimentary about the way the Irish authorities had managed Covid. She forecast that if WFH continues for significant numbers of staff in the medium to long term, it will place additional responsibilities on management to ensure good information flows and teamwork. She noted that the death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter protests that followed was another major issue that communications teams had to manage at the same time as Covid.

There was just one area of the PRII survey that surprised her: she thought more people would have identified childcare while WFH as a major issue. The survey reports that under a third (28%) of PRII Members found childcare arrangements had a negative effect on their working lives during recent months.

For Tina Quinn, MPRII, in Cork, the findings of the survey resonated. Like our respondents, AM O’Sullivan found that they were busier than ever working with clients on crisis and issues management and consulting on both internal and corporate communications. The team were looking forward to getting back into their offices later this month but had ‘rallied together’ to support their clients and each other while WFH.

In the survey, members also said that client meetings will be prioritised over internal meetings when face to face meetings restart.

Padraig McKeon observed that many of the changes in work practices and areas of work identified in the survey had been in existence albeit at a lower level and that Covid-19 was ‘an accelerant’. He forecast that formalised stakeholder comms would return to previous levels with the Government now in place and the economy and public sector re-opening.

Although Sponsorship and Events had been badly impacted, (the survey reports that 68% of members are spending less time on Event Management and 35% less time on Sponsorship), they would also return, if not later this year, then next year. That said, he felt the full impact on the PR sector and those it employed, might not be clear for another 6 to 9 months.

Reassuringly 77% of members reported that their employment conditions were unaffected to date, however reflecting the unknowns of the national economy, there is concern around salary reduction, reduced hours or redundancy.

Both Padraig McKeon and CEO Martina Byrne commented on the positive profile the pandemic had given to the wide range of knowledges and competencies in the profession, a point echoed by Tina Quinn. “It has helped open up new conversations with clients who might have associated PR solely with media relations in the past”.  The research report and Frank's presentation are available in the members only area of the website here.

Our thanks to all those members who completed the survey and gave us a very rich insight into how the pandemic has impacted our working lives. We would also like to extend our thanks to Emily, Tina and Padraig for sharing their recent experience and observations on Friday afternoon.


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