Of any historic parallel to the current crisis, the one that will resonate with my generation will be the experience of those who started their careers during the financial crash of 2007/8.
While PR leaders remain confident they will be able to weather the storm of COVID-19 better than other marcomms industries, how practitioners will operate in the future is no clearer than when the global financial system was brought to near-collapse more than a decade ago.
For those in the first few years of their careers – as many experienced during the financial crash – COVID-19 will make these the most formative years of their professional lives.
Additionally, in the years to come, it is possible that we will look back to the current crisis as the inflection point for several trends in PR.
Of course, some of these aren’t unpredictable or unfamiliar to us.
Notably, the human and economic impact of this virus has emphasised the importance of more purposeful and integrated communications strategies.
Most agencies realise that this is a significant aspect of external and internal communications for any company or organisation in 2020.
However, developing a thoughtful and genuine corporate purpose – as well as environmental, social and governance credentials – can no longer be considered a separate element of strategic communications; instead, it has to be at the core of organisations’ narrative and their citizenship story.
But aside from trends to the substance of our work, perhaps the most obvious and previously unexpected change will be to the way we work.
A more dynamic way of working will become the “new normal” across the industry – and will reflect both the demands of the younger generation of PR professionals, who are not obsessed with office culture, but also a wider economy that thrives on greater flexibility.
Aside from these wide-ranging changes to the way we operate, COVID-19 has also reiterated the overall value of our work to both private sector organisations and public sector leaders.
For several years, one could say that other advisors have had the ear of the most powerful to provide counsel in the most challenging times.
This pandemic – which has been extremely complex and challenging for different sectors to navigate – has been the first this century to illustrate the necessity of clear communications.
Unlike previous national crises, advisers focused on reputation and leadership have been absolutely fundamental for engaging with employees, media, government and other stakeholders.
So, what does this all mean for those at the start of their careers in the industry?
While it is by no means certain, it is evident that the industry will face profound changes in the years to come.
What is increasingly likely is that when the next crisis comes along, those PR professionals in my generation will have a front-row seat.
And if the response of some businesses and leaders in the crisis has taught us anything, that surely is a good thing.
Theo Davies-Lewis is an associate at Finsbury