By Invitation | Priyanka Mehra: The New normal – The rise and rise of humane professionalism?

28 Aug,2020

By Priyanka Mehra


One of the lessons I have taken out of this ongoing pandemic is heightened sensitivity; in spite of being a fan of the written word, I now pick up the phone and speak to a colleague as opposed to sending out an email, the difference in the outcome is significant.

If you dwell on it you will concur that our audio sensory powers have now heightened to pick up human emotions, we are now much quicker in picking up  nuances of change in voice, whether it is just a slight  drop or that note of excitement on a new project, much faster than we would have in, what is commonly now referred to as old normal or the world as we knew it earlier.

The question to, ‘’how are you?” now receives a more sincere and honest response, as opposed to an automated perfunctory one.  I would like to believe we have become more sensitised as a collective.

Yet just a few months ago, most of us envisaged ‘work from home’ would last a month, a couple of months at best and here we are completing sixth months of work from home or the more befitting moniker of ‘work without borders.’

According to a recent Adobe consumer survey conducted in the APAC region, employment, personal health, job vulnerability, and the economy are the four greatest concerns/ impacts of COVID 19.  67 percent of respondents expressed concern where health and wellbeing were ranked at 73 percent, job vulnerability 40 percent, and the concerns of the economy were pegged at 36 percent.

Given this backdrop, amid and despite looming uncertainties on various fronts, we seem to be hardwired as humans to be resilient to keep going and adapt, while the overall sentiment entails looking for ways to manage costs, increase effectiveness, and explore innovative ways for reaching audiences for our clients as agency partners, and plan for the future, we have adapted to pitches in ‘zoom times’ without a batting of an eyelid, working from multiple locations and time zones come with the territory.

While discipline, and a routine have been my strongest allies in WFH, I found it easier to get into this a schedule, (having worked out of home and wherever else you would be as a journalist/ editor as long as you had wifi) than a few of my colleagues and friends who took a few weeks to adjust.

Humane Professionalism- There is a rise and rise of a phenomenon I like to call “Humane Professionalism” and no this did not happen overnight but months of ‘work without borders, has cajoled the humane- element out of all of us.

Yes, we  did over – communicate in the first couple of weeks, to compensate for not actually meeting, and then slowly and steadily settled into a routine. A core leadership WhatsApp group was formed which quickly became a mainstay, real time communication then became our best friend.

The past few months soon became a journey we took together, which showed us the real people behind the roles and designations, the quirks the habits and how individuals functioned under pressure became apparent, would we get to know each other in a way we all have – or would we really care and help each other adapt to the challenges thrown at us before March 2020? Possibly not.

Our teams also equipped themselves with new skillsets, not even considered earlier thanks to apps like Canva, and photoshop.

Whilst the role of communications could never be undermined, the pandemic accentuated this further. The American Institute for Public Relations (IPR) in association with communications firm Peppercomm,  conducted a research study in March as Covid was making its presence felt in no uncertain terms, this study covered 300 communications executives and senior leaders to gain a better understanding of how prepared businesses were for Co and how they are handling the impacts.

The findings revealed that business leaders are leaning into their communication function as an essential resource to help them deal with Covid-19. More than three-quarters (81%) of respondents said the communication function is “important” or “very important” to their company’s Covid-19 response.

Sensitised and timely communication for me have been the key takeaways during the past few months. Let’s take the analogy of brands, we all did use a plethora of brands in the pre- pandemic era, the lockdown suddenly made us realise, which brands actually added meaning to our lives, besides serving our functional and utility based needs, brands that stood for a strong purpose became more meaningful to us and consequently built more affinity. Similarly, communication that was sensitised, timely and meaningful and consequently added value to our lives is the one we choose to engage with.

Which were our most important takeaways and consequent approach while formulating content/ communication for clients as well as internal and external stakeholders.

Whether it was internal communications to ensure each colleague across agencies and levels felt and functioned in a safe environment. Externally too you could feel journalists/ editors/ publication owners reeling under their own pressure.  Over a period, of functioning in an environment such as this you start picking up things said and unsaid from interactions.

Reconnecting – For me, this has been a time of frank conversations and transparency which works wonders in a situation that draws you together as a collective of professionals going through an unprecedented pandemic together each playing their part.


Priyanka Mehra is Director, Marketing and Communications, Havas Group India and a former Editor of Exchange4media


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