A Letter to Current and Rising Communications Professionals

It is currently a Thursday afternoon as I am writing this and I am tired. Like many around me and perhaps the many more that will read this post, I am tired of being constrained to my house, only leaving for the occasional fast-food drive-thru run or shift at the sandwich shop I work at. I am tired of things seeming to get worse every single day, with more restrictions being announced, confirmed cases rising, and new deaths being reported each day.

Here is the thing, though: I have the luxury to complain about this. The public relations professionals and members of the media that support our communities do not get the chance to be tired in a situation like this. They are constantly crafting and delivering new communications to the various communities that desperately need these messages right now. People like Ana Toro, APR, the public affairs officer for the CDC, all the way down to the many professionals working on the ground to set up and execute the daily press briefings that Governor Mike DeWine is holding here in my home state of Ohio, are working around the clock to serve people in this time of crisis. These people don’t get a day off in a situation like this, much less an hour or two off.

Let’s not forget our media members, either. They are providing a vital service to all of our communities at(especially the local publications). This is a time where professional communicators of all kinds can prove their worth. In order to do this and secure the trust of their publics, communicators need to keep in mind that communications should be factual, clear, timely, and succinct as possible.

This is way easier said than done. I wanted to use my platform here to applaud our communications and media professionals for their work. In order for us all to #FlattenTheCurve during this pandemic, we all need to work together, and communications professionals are leading the way. I didn’t think I would ever get so many emails from different companies in the same week, but I applaud those who are taking the steps to inform their customers of this dire situation. Although my inbox is cluttered, I appreciate them showing that they care. In today’s age it is also the responsibility of organizations to do everything they can to help stop the spread.

As far as my personal experience goes, my takeaway is this: it’s a very unique time to be an emerging media student. Just the other day I hopped on the Central Ohio PRSA podcast and was asked how emerging media is affecting communications during an outbreak like this. From my understanding, the last time an outbreak on this scale happened we were still in the age of radio, so things have certainly changed a lot since then. It is so surreal how quickly information spreads on social media today. Again, that is why it is so crucially important for communicators to get accurate and timely information out to their publics first. I have been doing my part as the social media manager and breaking news contributor for my university’s student newspaper and hope to continue serving our campus community as well as I possibly can.

I want to conclude this reflection by sharing some thoughts and advice to my fellow communications students and PRSSA members. Know that this is a historic time that we are living in. Try your best to take it all in. Do your part as rising communications pros and use your personal platforms to share critical information and combat misinformation. If you get the chance, thank the professional communicators and media members around you for doing their part. But also, please make some time for self-care. Watching this pandemic unfold on the news every day can be mentally exhausting, so make sure to set some time aside to turn the TV off, close that laptop, and get away for a bit. Maybe it’s getting lost in your favorite book or going outside on a walk, safely. Take care of yourself and do your part, and I am sure we will get through this.

This post is part of a series for PRSSA’s #FlattentheCurve campaign in collaboration with the University of Colorado Boulder Chapter, featuring posts about social distancing efforts and how members and Chapters are coping with the COVID-19 pandemic. To submit a post for this series, email progressions@prsa.org.

Zach FerenchakZach Ferenchak, 2020–2021 vice president of brand engagement, is a current senior studying emerging media at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio. He is an avid communicator who hopes to one day elevate brands and causes through effective storytelling. Feel free to follow him on Twitter, or connect with him on LinkedIn.

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