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Kaizo Live – Nordic view: PR in the pandemic, challenges and opportunities

Kaizo Live – Nordic view: PR in the pandemic, challenges and opportunities

STEPH MACLEOD [00:00:06] Welcome to this week’s Kaizo Live Show. This week, we are joined by one of our PR partners, this time from the Nordic region, to hear about the impact of COVID-19 on the markets and media in Sweden. So welcome. I’m delighted to welcome Bjorn Mogensen, Senior Consultant at OXP, based in Stockholm. Thank you very much for joining us.

BJORN MOGENSEN [00:00:37] Thank you, Steph

STEPH MACLEOD [00:00:39] It looks very nice and sunny in Stockholm today.

BJORN MOGENSEN [00:00:43] Well, it might look that way, but it certainly isn’t.

STEPH MACLEOD [00:00:47] Oh.

BJORN MOGENSEN [00:00:47] I’m afraid.

STEPH MACLEOD [00:00:50] Oh, dear. Well, it’s for change. It’s quite sunny in London. So that is a positive. And like what I said thank you so much for joining me this afternoon. And I think you might know that the first four of our Kaizo life program are focused on the impact of COVID-19 on various countries and regions across the world. And so we kicked off with a UK perspective. We then talked to our “World Comm” PR partners in Germany, Spain and Italy, followed by the US and then our last program focused on Asia PAC and we have partners from India and Singapore. And I think what’s been most interesting so far is that due to the spread of COVID it’s obviously been at very different phases in each region. And we’ve been able to hear insights and share experiences and learnings from partners who are all at different stages of the pandemic. And, you know, the market’s response to it/. Today, however, there’s been a broad consistency in how each country and region has responded to COVID in terms of lockdown’s working from home and government responses. Now, that approach, of course, is quite different to what’s been reported about the Swedish response. And so it’d be great if you could perhaps start with a, you know, a general update on the Swedish experience and how it’s been handled in the country and how you feel about how it’s affected the market. And I guess the population’s behaviours.

BJORN MOGENSEN [00:02:36] Yeah, I’d be glad to. Well, Sweden has chosen a bit of a different way, and it’s not. I wouldn’t say it. It’s total consensus about that, you hear this and that, and you see statistics showing that this people are right or these people are right. So but anyway, a lot of people are working from home. It’s not compulsory. You don’t have to. And you don’t have to meet in, I think, 50 people as the maximum. So football and stuff like that is not possible. I don’t think cinemas are open either. It’s total Netflix everywhere. Yeah, but I mean, the the trains around the underground is driving, the buses run, and I’m working from the office. My wife is working from home. So it’s a mix. The reason for this that we’ve chosen a bit, I would say that the industry was quite fast on responding, that if we have a total meltdown of the industry, then we will be very much worse off than with some other casualties. It’s a hard way to put it, but that those were the thoughts at the beginning. And after that, I think we didn’t close go on with the closing down. It ended there. Children up to 16 years of going to school normally. In kindergarten and stuff like that. The older ones going to high school and university, they are at home.

STEPH MACLEOD [00:04:36] Yeah, I heard a lot about, you know, being you know, if you look at to try and understand and, you know, a population’s behaviour and national characteristics that really the Swedish government response is based on the fact that, you know, they felt it was individual responsibility to kind of understand the limit. The advice and I think that’s probably what you’re seeing right now. And the other interesting part of it is, of course. That I guess from the very start, the population in Sweden has had to live with the virus. So there hasn’t been this forced lockdown. And in that sense, you guys are kind of ahead of the careful little bit. But we are coming out of lockdown, just learning these lessons. But you’re perhaps that one step ahead.

BJORN MOGENSEN [00:05:33] I would say we really don’t know if we’re ahead or after. But I think it’s worked out quite well. I mean, suites are not so close anyway. We keep our distance, as it is.

STEPH MACLEOD [00:05:52] Okay. I’d actually like to introduce. I think he was running a little bit late. But we are actually also joined by Magnus Broyn, who is Managing Partner at Cox at Public Relations in Norway. So nice to see you, Magnus.

MAGNUS BROYN [00:06:14] Great to see you. How are you?

STEPH MACLEOD [00:06:17] I’m good, thank you. And great to be part of this session. And then just to pick up where Bjorn left, as I’m half Swedish, I perhaps entitled to say I agree. You know, the Scandinavian social distancing is what we have been practising for all our lives. So this is just a way of living, isn’t it?

STEPH MACLEOD [00:06:43] So what if from a Norwegian perspective, what? Obviously, the Norwegian government’s response has been far more in line with other states across the world, hasn’t it? Although I see there’s easing of locked out and being recently arrived in Norway.

MAGNUS BROYN [00:07:01] Yeah, so that’s right, Steph. We have in Norway, as most of the world a crisis and we have been dealing with that the way the Swedes have, at least not from the beginning. But Norway went into total lockdown as one of the first countries in Europe. And based on that, we’ve had quite a few casualties. So it’s just about two hundreds in the whole of Norway for this whole period from the COVID-19 virus. So the government is experiencing, in a way, I would say, a moment of faith from the people. The trust in governments are sky high. And people in general, I think, feel that now when we’re opening up and we’re getting back to in you everyday life in a way, and it’s going slow and we still have a lot of restrictions on people in general feel that it’s probably been right to shut down and locked on the country, even though, you know, it’s had quite a few consequences. Of course.

STEPH MACLEOD [00:08:23] Of course. So on that note, it would be good to hear about your, I guess, each of your businesses and the sectors that you focus on. The impact that has had over the last couple of months and also what you’ve done as agencies and businesses to adapt to the situation.

BJORN MOGENSEN [00:08:47] Oxenstierna & Partners, where I work is to a large extent a financial communications agency. Even though my background is tech PR. So we are a bit of both and financials. I mean, the stock exchange hasn’t, there was a fear of total meltdown, but it hasn’t happened. In fact, it picked up quite substantially about two weeks, three weeks ago. Now it’s people are waiting for something to happen, I suppose. But it hasn’t been a meltdown in other areas of PR tech. I’d say it’s a lot of stuff is put on hold. Until we see some kind of beginning of the end of this.

STEPH MACLEOD [00:10:00] And a similar pattern in Norway?

MAGNUS BROYN [00:10:04] Yeah, I would say to some extent, but Norway and Sweden has, you know, dealt with this crisis very differently. So while the Swedish community was open and people were out at restaurants and even partying Norway, we were sitting, you know, in our homes quarantining ourselves. So I think we’ve dealt with this very differently. And it’s also hit the the economy differently. But having said that, your questions that goes a bit towards the PR side of the business as far as I understand. And and I would say that, you know, brands have also been in lockdown. They’ve been in lockdown mode. They’re not engaging proactively with their customers and potential customers the way they usually have been doing it in a way that’s understandable. I mean, if you run an airline, why should you use this, you know, period and this crisis when almost no people are flying in, no planes in the air. And people don’t even want to think about that to some extent. Why should you use that time to proactively connect with your audience? It’s probably quite smart for that kind of brands to sit still and to wait this crisis out and then to be eager on the forefront again, to jump into the new possibilities. So but at the same time, I think we’ve had if it’s not been full throttle ahead, it’s been it’s been a good momentum in other areas. So brand communications has taken a hit. I would say consultancy and advisory related to the ongoing crisis has been really important. And it’s, you know, developed through various phases. We’ve shared analysis with several clients about how, you know, they will be hit on and more in general, how this might play out. And when this the right time to start proactively communicating again and also how would you need to think about crises and reputation management, which has been, for instance, quite short term in its focus as everything you know, it’s not longer year by year or quarter by quarter. It’s more, not even month by month. It’s week by week or day by day, hour by hour. So, you know, you need to be on top of things. And that’s also, I think, what’s been the key driving force within corporate communication. It’s been, in a way, rethinking strategies and tactical activities, what to do and how to do them and do it, basically. And is this the right time? And if it is, how can we do it? Shall we link it to the situation? Overall situation should be not through. The internal communication has, of course, been really important as part of reaching out and engaging the employer base. So the shift from, you know, in a way doing doing employer branding, which is reaching out and making your brand and your organisation and company attractive to new employees to a large extent. Now it’s focused on keeping people. You have the staff, the people you care about, updated and the eager when they’re working from home. And things are potentially tough also on other sites of their everyday life. And then also just to go through. I mean, public affairs has been a bit different. It’s been at least something totally different. And it’s been that since the availability and potential for dialogues has been limited. Clearly, politicians and other stakeholder groups have been, you know, focusing on other things, some focusing on internal more that the true basis of where we are. And then I would say also digital and social has been to some extent it’s been either the clients have turned it off and said, we’re just going away for a while or some has this and seen this as a true potential as it has arising, you know, it’s not so crowded. And then it’s a possibility of at least staying in touch with your community and your client base and also your customers and potential customers without being annoying in a way but you need to trim that according to the contextual landscape. And what I mean is that it’s been as societies gradually opening up again. It’s been more going back to where we used to be and not so much either lockdown the digital and social space at work or it had to be linked to the situation we were in. But now, it’s a bit…

STEPH MACLEOD [00:15:14] I think your point about having that on the right channel and dialogue and communication with your customers are, you know, or your prospect there will be that in a consumer or business context. That’s where we have seen growth and demand and opportunity. Certainly from a UK perspective, because the media agenda and the governmental agenda, to your point about PA has been so focused, rightly so, on all the different stories and stages of COVID. Right. So you’ve got the health story, the economic story, you know, the different views on approaches. So I think that direct channel, intensive social digital understanding influence is tied to what works and has been particularly important. And I think it will probably result in an increased interest from brands if they haven’t been doing it and doing it moving forward. And it could be a take a quick recap on and talked a little bit about the media agenda and each of the country, and what we’ve seen from a UK perspective, what about, you know, the media agenda in Sweden Bjorn? So is that you is it completely still COVID dominating? Is there reason for other types of client news and business news? Are we moving to that kind of restart recovery?

MAGNUS BROYN [00:16:39] Yeah. Yeah. I mean, two weeks ago, I would say it was 85% covered to not. Now we’re back to scandals again. Yeah. So even though it’s maybe 50% Corona. Yeah. Something that has if you go to magazines and not daily media, where there a lot of freelancers, free contributors, they have been laid off, they don’t get any work because you keep the work for the employed staff. Which has changed the way we work. Of course, the staff that is still there, they have to work a lot and sometimes it helps. You can I mean, you it’s easier to take in news, but sometimes. They don’t have the time really to look at stuff. Yeah. I would say that it is, there is much more interest in life science. You can see the life science stocks at the stock exchange have almost all gone up. Yeah. Not mattering what they’re actually working on. Yeah. It’s been more interest in the media around life science initiatives. Also, tech stuff, because people have become very dependent on tech and interested in new tech stuff.

STEPH MACLEOD [00:18:32] Yeah, I think they know their track and trace then and testing know capability. You know, if you look at, you know, I think every country has an app, some kind of track and testing app. You know, that opens that whole tech dialogue from everything from privacy and data through to, you know, trying to empower some social good. And what about Norway? Because obviously, as I mentioned, it looks like you’re beginning you know, the borders are slightly beginning to open. And what’s that? What’s the media appetite and agenda like there?

MAGNUS BROYN [00:19:06] Yeah, I would say that tech and digital has been really given more headroom since, of course, everyone in the way is suddenly leaping forward, perhaps 10, even 15 years ahead. Suddenly, we have to work from home. We have to utilise digital solutions. And some of us have been doing that for many years. But some have not been doing that. And that’s how it is, isn’t it? So for a society, I think that’s good. Just a brief point on the borders and the restrictions in Norway will still be uphold, according to the prime minister and the government. Probably throughout the summer. So we won’t be looking at the most. Norwegians have been told that they should, you know, prepare for a summer and the vacation in Norway. So I think this will be a still a different part of society. But going back to the media landscape stuff, I think you to begin with, the first period we had to you know, the first phase, we had to link every story to, you know, the overall situation in a way. So it wasn’t possible to get messages across there and use angles if it wasn’t in a way related to Corona and that’s changed, of course. Now, most media, I would say, are covering a wide range of news stories as well. And I think they also, you know, to be honest, when the shift came, when when the media outlets saw that, you know, we the consumers, the media consumers wanted to to have other stories served, they actually shifted quite rapidly on the broader level. So I would say during the last month or so, it’s been gradual, but it’s been quite rapid and with more, I would say it’s more normalised, a more normalised state just in the media. And of course, that’s also going back to technology. It’s the media know what we are interested in these days. Of course, they know what we read and how much for how long and what we click on and what converts, et cetera, et cetera. So they really know how to play this and how to execute. So when the shift came, we, for instance, saw new formats. So the largest TV news channel in Norway, for instance, introduced a format they called Good News. Which is basically daily news, but it’s just positive news. And it was introduced to approximately a month ago, and it’s aired several times today. So it’s just an example of, you know, how the general trend is, you know, pulling us towards something more normal or at least positive. And I would also say that, you know, the large media, the leading main media, the news drivers of the media world have had sky high reader and user and viewer numbers. But at the same time, you know, the largest media have become even larger and more relevant, while the smaller and this show oriented media have faced some sudden and real challenges since, you know, in a way, we wanted hard news within financial economics, technology, digital, but also the general, of course, mainly the general update on the Corona situation. And that’s why also the online consumption is up. And what we have seen in Norway is that many people based news outlets have published and made available the print editions online, some for free and most paid. But at the same time, it may have made it a lot more available for the readers who, you know, that’s in mid-March, didn’t go to the stores anymore to buy the actual grant edition. So they had to change their way of thinking distribution. Also in in the media world, which has been paper-based for many of these players for a few hundred years. So I would say in general, TV viewing has been solid. Even though TV is down, as you know, the overall trend for the last decade, it’s been solid during this period. The online is sky high and the large media has become larger and the podcasts are up while radio was a bit down. So that’s pretty much where we are before. In a way, I think we will get more and more back to the normal state of media consumption.

STEPH MACLEOD [00:23:53] Absolutely. I think that certainly echoed in the UK, where you’ve seen I mean, this is just being complete resurgence of broadcast news because people either at home and they want these hard facts, immediate facts. And so, you know, online, of course. Absolutely. And it’s quite interesting if you look at the shift and consumption, both in terms of all information actually and working patterns, I think, you know, COVID in a sense, you know, we haven’t had a choice but to ensure that, you know, if we can as a business, we can all walk completely remotely. It’s kind of forced that hand, hasn’t it? It’s forced the hand of a lot of these media houses to think in desperate, more innovative ways, it’s forced. And I’m sure a lot of the big events have now, you know, they do that it’s pretty critical to have virtue, at least a virtual element to the event. So I did see that if I was planning to go ahead and this year and its normal format, but looking to that future, I guess, both from a global and a local perspective in each of your markets. What do you think are the changes that will really will continue once we are through that? How did you think it changed? What we do in terms of communications and marketing forever? Or not. In fact.

BJORN MOGENSEN [00:25:32] It’s hard to say, of course, but we’ve gotten used to working remote and having all meetings over Skype or Teams or something. We’ve gotten used to that. And that is not tech geeks like Magnus or maybe myself a bit. Everyone is used to this now. And the flaws of not meeting people in real life. We know them and we can address them. And I think we make it. We’ve made a big leap in using tech appliances. And it’s opening up for much more in this way. That will probably hit airlines and a lot of other businesses.

STEPH MACLEOD [00:26:35] From your perspective Magnus?

MAGNUS BROYN [00:26:38] I think Steph we will, you know, leap forward in means of communication, means of of working together and collaborating. And also how we actually engage with each other. But at the same time, after COVID 19, we will, of course, have a tremendous need of just going out and hugging each other and seeing each other and having fun together. So in a way, there are several trends here working together and forming what I would presume would be the future quite near term, to be honest, and that’s, for instance, going back to your reference to EFA. just, you know, a couple of hours ago today, they announced that they will continue on with of course, I talk to different venue and a totally different way of engaging with the companies. You know, brands, products, media and the general German population will not be invited them. There is, you know, four different conferences running, but they will be physical. They will be in Berlin. They will invite people and media at least, and companies to come to Berlin and one of the messages has been that there will be probably more press conferences this year than last year. And that’s based on the fact that, you know, there is a lot of tech companies out there. There’s a lot of brands out there with cool stuff, with, you know, innovative brand new products that you and I and everyone else probably should hear about and at least know about. So and they have been, in a way, suffering the most, because within this part of, you know, the landscape within media and communications, the news flow is, you know, tremendous. These companies cannot just, you know, postpone the release of a new flagship phone with a few months. It doesn’t work like that. They need to get the message, just the products out there. And then to start the next innovative journey. So they have all of those going on all the time. And in a way I think it’s important to take a minute and to think about how we, as you know, a part of that ecosystem are able to share and to make sure that we support a new way of interacting. A new way of common communicating while not leaving behind what we, you know, have been doing and know what that works. So we need to be more digital. We need to I think we will travel less, at least for a few years ahead, and we will work and interact in new ways. And also, I think we will have more digital press conferences. We will have more than one to one meetings on video. We will have more, you know, messages coming across in the personal manner. But without sitting down in the same room.

STEPH MACLEOD [00:29:48] Absolutely. And if he gets to close, if you had one piece of advice to give to either other communications professionals or business owners, what would it be?

MAGNUS BROYN [00:30:01] I would say that you should, you know, look at this as a great opportunity to innovate, to think, what can you do differently? How can you think differently? How can you act differently? How can you offer something in a new fashion which actually makes sense, which you probably might have done even a year ago, where a couple of years ago you should perhaps have them. But still, you know, innovation is nothing we can do. Each Friday at 10 a.m., we cannot tell ourselves that. Now, in the calendar we have ah hour where we’re gonna be innovative. So this is something we need to build into the culture. We need to work with it, and we need to make it our own. We need to claim it. So that’s my, I would say thoughts. And I think that’s also. Now we have perhaps time to think in a new and then the way and then, you know, distance ourselves from the old boundaries in a way. So that is something I hope many will try to do.

BJORN MOGENSEN [00:31:06] I, I totally agree with Magnus. If You haven’t thought about it before then now, this is an opportunity. Don’t think anything else.

STEPH MACLEOD [00:31:18] Yeah. Well, on that very positive note, I want to say thank you so much, guys, for joining me today. It’s been very interesting to hear from you both, both in terms of, I think, to be able to hear about the different experience in Sweden and also how Norway has coped with everything and views on innovation in particular. And I think there are so many differences and nuances and country and business and sector approaches. But I think it’s really coming through way, you know, the consistent message as it’s by, you know, pragmatic positivity, I think is how I put it and be an agile and innovative and really seeing what we can take from this. Whilst, you know, obviously all staying safe. So thank you so much. And for those of you who tune in every week, we will be back next week. And same place, same time. And again, if you have any particular issues or topics that you’d like us to cover, then drop us a line. And in the meantime, I guess for our UK viewers, stay alert and safe and I will see you next week. Thank you.