Future-proof: Communication, Media and Careers

One of the great lessons for career advisors in the aftermath of the Great Recession of 2007-9 was the recession-proof nature of the communications and media industries. Will this be true of the Great Recession of 2020-2021? 

Day in and day out, we watch our screens in horror as unemployment figures rise around the globe, and the latest harrowing statistics roll in from economies paralyzed by anti-coronavirus measures. It is only natural that those preparing to embark on studying for a degree may feel a bit uneasy, and wonder if they have chosen an area of study that will lead to a career upon graduation.

One surprising aspect of the last major global economic crisis was the lack of impact that it had on many careers in media and communication. Although this seems obvious in retrospect, few people understood at the time just how deeply intertwined media and communications are with all aspects of our lives. 

Is history slated to repeat itself? What indications can we now see that suggest a rosy future for graduates in this area? Are communications and media recession-proof?

One area that has been impossible to ignore over the last three months is the news media. Although print sales are down in most countries for a variety of reasons (including access – not many were venturing out to pick up a paper from the kiosk during lockdown), digital and broadcast have seen stunning increases. As one commentator recently pointed out, public broadcasters were on the chopping block only a few months ago, but are now seeing double-digit increases in ratings, and no one questions their importance. The reasons are obvious – we want to know what is going on, and this thirst for information is only increasing. Unfortunately, this also applies to conspiracy theory and far-right websites as well, who have been able to seize the opportunity that the lust for information has brought to dramatically increase the scope and influence of disinformation.

Advertising and marketing has obviously been hit, with early local estimates ranging from 15-30% for the first half of 2020. Ad budgets are being slashed and major marketing campaigns cancelled (particularly where travel is involved) but everyone also knows that advertising and marketing are the oils that lubricate the engine of the global economy – they will not and cannot simply disappear. One potential positive effect of the slowdown could be an increase in creativity and redefined focus in the local market, as we have seen with a few campaigns, which attracted a  fair amount of attention during lockdown, for example  with Budvar and Globus.

Similarly essential, but for entirely different reasons, Public Relations has become so deeply entrenched in the 21stcentury corporate way of life that it would be impossible to imagine any drastic change taking place. Cost savings are a natural result of the lockdown (e.g. reduced travel and events), and PR is a field that thrives on innovative cost savings. Will corporations shed their communication departments because of a global economic slowdown? Unlikely. Instead, the name of the game seems to be going on the attack to seek advantages in cost-effective ways. As a student wisely said in the slowdown after the last major recession, ‘Public relations are a necessity. Necessities are recession-proof.’

If your company can afford it, you pay for the information you need instead of guessing. Uncertain times are good times for media research, global measurement and data analytics companies such as Neilsen, and their analyses are almost ubiquitous these days. This kind of research and data – who is consuming what media, who is buying which products – informs and guides companies and governments in their decision-making.

Perhaps the most obvious  area: with the steep rise in digital device use during the crisis, digital media of all kinds – social media, online learning, video streaming, gaming, audio streaming – is exploding. Think 20-30% social media use increases, 60% video streaming increases…and where do we even start with e-commerce? 

Finally, event management. What? Event…management? With the cancellation of fairs, conferences, music and theatre festivals, and any other type of event involving people gathering in close quarters, how can event management be a career option now? But events go hand-in-hand with the advertising and PR that are so crucial to so many industries, and so they cannot die – only evolve. The obvious route is to take events online, and we see this happening globally. Some innovators are looking at the seemingly impossible situation as an opportunity, and starting initiatives to go beyond the “new normal” of online events.

Many industries have been, and will continue to be, hit hard during the COVID-19 crisis. No part of the global economy will remain untouched. However, the “mediatization” of our lives over the past two decades is firmly entrenched, and not going anywhere. The communications and media industries have supported us during the crisis, and they will be here to bring us back to stability.

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