Ensuring Business Continuity Amidst The Coronavirus Pandemic In PR, we are constant in many things, and facilitating communications during these times is most definitely one of them. But of course, the way we interact, and the issues we will deal with in the future may change- only time will tell.

By Sawsan Ghanem

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These are strange times we live in, with the COVID-19 pandemic upon us, and it's led us to a series of many firsts to get our heads around. When dealing with it, you can either choose the calm and rational approach, or the panic and doomsday one. And this applies to the personal challenges and the reality of social isolation we are faced with, as well as the challenges of business continuity.

I really do believe that we are lucky to be living in a connected world whilst navigating through these extremely surreal and challenging times. The COVID-19 pandemic is going to go down in history as one of the biggest threats experienced by mankind; there's no doubt about that. In the same breath, uncertain times will bring out the entrepreneurial spirit in many, as they fight to survive. For businesses across many sectors, this is probably one of the toughest times with national lockdowns, calls for self-isolation, travel bans, and quarantines.

For us in the PR and marketing sector, these times play to our core skillsets, creativity, and finely-honed communication skills. E-meetings, conference calls, WhatsApp messages, calls, and social media platforms like Slack and Zoom have really come into their fore now more than ever, ensuring that we can work remotely. It really is a case study for business continuity in a virtual world. Yes, human interaction will suffer and will have to take a back seat, which is sad. I, for one, will miss it. From a rational perspective, this is temporary, a necessity for now, and something we all have to accept for the time being.

Brainstorming, planning, training, content creation, and reviews are all being conducted efficiently online, utilizing different tools. Ironically, business efficiencies and productivity are maintained with a more urgent and passionate sense of delivery. And there's nothing we in PR like more than a challenge. No matter who you are, which society, business, or part of the world you live in, whilst we are living in self isolation or quarantine, we are still keen to read, listen, and watch different types of content as a means to pass the time and welcome distractions from round the clock news about the coronavirus. So, for organizations now, it's even more crucial to share their news, and for us communication professionals to be driving their campaigns and sharing their content to audiences locally, regionally, and globally. After all, normal service –new updates across different media vehicles- gives people confidence in times like these.

Related: Infographic: Guidelines For Businesses In Dubai Amidst The National Disinfection Program

We are approaching these difficult times with a "business as usual" mindset, but keeping it different as well. In our industry, we are wired to be able to provide all our services to our clients remotely. A majority of our clients are based around the globe; however, we still drive their communication campaigns successfully with infrequent face-to-face interaction. The crux of the issue here is responsiveness. When you provide clients with uninterrupted counsel, timely informative input and advice, and excellent results, you are not only doing your job, but adding value too. Don't forget: we are all in it together, and clients are going through their own challenges- challenges which we want to help and support them with.

Working collaboratively and remembering the human element whilst using the technology that we are fortunate to have these days is a delicate and sometimes difficult balance, but you have to remember that –as I stated earlier– it's something we have been doing consistently in PR for many years now. The only real difference is that the platforms have evolved and improved significantly, and now we work remotely -virtually- as a team, not just with our clients. Internally, teamwork, efficient communication, and cross collaboration is more critical now than ever. At times like these, we need to unite, work towards a common goal, and do our best every day. With this belief system in place, we will come out stronger on the other side.

Challenging times force us to get creative and find alternative ways to interact at work and socially. That's not a bad thing. There's always a positive spin to everything. I've personally been inspired this week by people's resilience and inner strength in the face of illness, emotional anxiety, and lockdowns. From a DJ in Italy setting up his music turntable and disco lights on his balcony to lift the spirits of his neighborhood as they face a lockdown for weeks, to a fitness instructor in Spain holding open air workouts on the roof of his building so that all those in view can join in and work out on their balconies. It's inspiring.

I'm also not blind to the flip side, and I have been saddened and concerned by the economic impact this is having on different sectors such as event companies, airlines, hospitality, and entertainment. In PR, we are constant in many things, and facilitating communications during these times is most definitely one of them. But of course, the way we interact, and the issues we will deal with in the future may change- only time will tell. However, I have faith that as we all heal and find our way through together, we will learn to appreciate our own company and the company of others, as well as a few of the simpler things in life.

Related: Seven Steps For PR Professionals To Take In Times Of Crisis

Sawsan Ghanem

Co-founder and Joint Managing Director, Active (Digital. Marketing. Communications.)

Sawsan Ghanem is the co-founder and Joint Managing Director of Active (Digital. Marketing. Communications).

Sawsan began her career in communications over 22 years ago, when she caught the PR and communication bug working with Emirates Aviation College (Marketing), Victor Microsystems (Marketing), and a couple other tech-focused PR agencies.

Sawsan gained a wealth of experience in the field of communications, leading on key regional campaigns and initiatives for international brand names such as Microsoft, Compaq, Western digital, SITA, Ciena, Banyan Tree Resorts, Xerox, Seachange, Sungaurd, Ruckus Wireless, Sony Broadcast, OTIS and more.

In the summer of 2003, Sawsan decided that she had more to give than what was being offered in the marketplace, and made the leap and set up Active with her partner Louay Al-Samarrai.

Sawsan has lived in the Middle East region for the greater part of her life. She lived and studied in the UK for a few years where she gained her BSc in Chemistry & Management from Kings College, London University and MA in International Business, from Webster Graduate School (London Campus).

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