Tamara Jokanović: Communication is playing the role of its life
Interview - Nov 20, 2020
Represent Communication General Manager Tamara Jokanović gave an interview for Nedeljnik, and here is its full version.
This has been one of the most challenging years. What are the major challenges in the area of communications and PR, as communication has been crucial in the pandemic, with warnings about ‘infodemic’ and misinformation from the very start?
The major challenge has been to teach companies and people how to communicate and that every ‘moment of silence’ is a loss for their company. It has been difficult to ‘open p’ companies which otherwise are not engaged in communication. Look, for instance, how many IT companies do not have departments specialised in communication. Every industry has had its specific challenges, depending on their core activity. I have said before and I will say it again, communication is playing the role of its life, because only now have people at the leadership positions realised what it means to communicate in a timely fashion, to prevent misinformation and, last but not the least, to empathise in any type of communication and relations.
What changes and cuts have you been forced to make in order to respond to all the challenges of this crisis, which problems have you dealt with the most?
We, as an agency engaged primarily in communications, have not made any cuts. Instead, we have transformed our operations in accordance with the circumstances and the use of communication channels reaching end-consumers, namely the public. I am proud of my team for having expressed strength and flexibility because we promptly adjusted to all the changes, seamlessly serviced clients and even won new ones, without making any cuts regarding people and salaries, which is, unfortunately, a rarity in agencies in Serbia and the region. So, we have focused on our core business – crisis and internal communication, reputation recovery, video formats, newsletters, assisting clients in managing the crisis, rather than vice versa. At the end and at the beginning of everything, we have dealt with people the most. Because we are all human, just like our clients, with our needs, virtues and flaws, tasks and objectives, ups and downs.
Have you noticed any specific change in interpersonal communication due to social distancing, ‘new normal’, lack of close contact, recommendations not to kiss and shake hands when meeting in person?
The change is more than obvious. We do not know how to greet one another when meeting on the street or coming to a meeting. In the upcoming period, we will certainly deal again with the business code of conduct in its new form. Digitalisation has become dominant, but I still think people in this region miss personal contact. For centuries, human kind has been developing cultural habits within the Balkan style of communication and all this that is happening is a cultural shock for us! I sincerely hope that coronavirus will not permanently change our unique genetic code, because neither emotions nor energy can be passed on in their essential form via digital channels compared to a hug, for instance.
What change can we expect in the area of communications? What are PR experts’ strategies for the future when we need to alleviate the consequences of the coronavirus crisis?
The product market is already modified for virtually every category, so companies and brands will have to perceive themselves and clients from a completely new perspective. For years, the PR industry has been ‘living its future’ in a sense of changing the approach, metrics, channels and tools used in communication. Some profound changes have already been made there, setting the global market and the method of execution to a new direction, from ‘physical’ to digital platform. However, there is no universal strategy for alleviating the consequences of the coronavirus crisis, because there are numerous factors you have no impact on. What is certain that communications and human relations will remain the strongest links among all business and private entities for some time in the future. We will deal with the revitalisation of the consequences of this crisis, as well as the one yet to come in the area of economy for a long time. The smartest strategy is to be adaptable to change in real time and prepared to what may potentially come.