thought leadership / 9 minute read

DRPG host The Big Debate on the future of communications

Written by Admin

5 June 2020

BIG debate - Dale Parmenter72

As we move through the phases of the Covid-19 recovery strategy, businesses are beginning to come out of hibernation to look at what the future holds and explore the challenges presented by going back to work. 

On Thursday 4th June, we brought together special guests from publications and associations representing events, comms and digital for a roundtable discussion and temperature check of the various sectors. The Big Debate, which was broadcast through our bespoke portal, included notable names from each sector, addressed issues such as the future of communications and asked how sectors and industries are persevering and what support is available amidst the disruption as businesses re-evaluate their strategies and move forward to adapting to the new norm. 

The panel represented many of the channels which make up the internal and external communication sector, from PR to live events, film and video to digital solutions. The breadth of expertise on the panel meant a balanced overview of the challenges of the last 10 weeks, and more importantly, the opportunities for the future.  

The debate is now available to watch HERE. 

The panel included: 

  • Caroline Clift, Editor at Stand Out magazine 
  • Claire Fennelow, Executive Director at EVCOM 
  • Martin Fullard, Editor at Conference News 
  • Holly Hall, MD at BIMA 
  • Simon Hughes, Vice Chair at BVEP 
  • Francis Ingham, Director General at PRCA 
  • Andrew Thomas, Publishing Editor at Communicate magazine 

The overriding sentiment from across the board is that the UK creative service industry is particularly good at adapting, changing business models and moving forward in times of crisis. This has been achieved through effective collaboration between sectors, associations, and businesses. 


Francis Ingham, Director General at PRCA commented, “While the PR industry is facing severe challenges, the crisis has accelerated. Several trends have benefitted the industry, such as the rise of digital. It’s also highlighted brand reputation. Some companies have handled this crisis well, others have not, but at its heart, it has brought to the fore the realisation that a company’s reputation is its most valuable asset. There will be some positives in the realisation that we can work from home effectively and efficiently. The industry has had a shock and is now changing its model and looking to the recovery phase, and there will be one. There is no doubt the industry will survive and prosper in the future.”  


Simon Hughes, Vice Chair at BVEP said, “This crisis has shown us it’s easier to lockdown then it is to start up. It will be a big challenge to the events industry to get back to normal within the guidelines. Events somewhat fell through the cracks when this hit as we don’t have a government home. We need more numbers and more data to demonstrate to the government the value of the events industry for bringing in business and revenue to the UK.” 


Holly Hall, MD at BIMA spoke from a digital point of view, “We’re seeing that digital offerings and experiences are absolutely paramount right now and a lot of our members are the ones who are driving that and making it happen, and they are busy as a result. A lot of companies are looking at their digital transformation. Maybe it was on their list of things to do pre-Covid 19, and now they’re seeing it’s an absolute priority.” 

Key Takeaways: 

  • While the PR industry is facing severe challenges, the crisis has accelerated some positive trends benefitting the industry: the rise of digital, the highlighting of brand reputation being the most valuable asset and facilitating working from home. 
  • Collaboration has come to the fore: trade bodies and associations have done great work encouraging collaboration between businesses and subsectors and supporting each other, putting the needs and interests of their people first. Sharing venues, collaborating on events and sharing ideas and experiences.  
  • Mentoring and sharing workforce and capacity throughout the comms industry has been indispensable and this shouldn’t stop once this crisis is over. This is a chance to improve the platforms to help the collaboration to continue. 
  • A collaboration between comms and events will be vital as live events begin to start back up. Events will require extensive PR and marketing campaigns to consistently create reassurance within the public, accompanied by some form of certification of safety levels.  
  • Confidence is low and events are on the backburner until 2021. Businesses still need to communicate so this service sits with comms and digital. 


CEO Dale Parmenter commented after the broadcast, “While the outlook may look bleak for certain sectors of our industry, there is most certainly grounds for optimism. Gathering experts from each field, including those from both press and associations, has been a fantastic chance to share an overview of the challenges faced, but most importantly to discuss the learnings that have resulted from this time of crisis.  

As has been expressed throughout the debate, it is the collaboration within our industry that is paramount to its survival. All parties are equally committed to seeing the industry successfully weather this storm, and the first step to achieving this is open and honest communication. We must continue to work together and support each other to see our industry flourish once again.”