This post appears courtesy of the USC Annenberg Center for Public Relations. The full report is available for download at

COVID-19 has altered public relations forever (or at least for a long time). This global pandemic has escalated crisis communications to the forefront of our skills and placed purpose at the center of our messages.

Normal marketing campaigns seem irrelevant when people are focused on life-threatening infections. Celebrities’ opinions lack credibility when compared to those of real experts. The incompetence of the government is outweighed by the effectiveness of business. Now and forever, average healthcare workers will be heroes and everyday citizens will be activists for their own survival.

This new social consciousness will not disappear when the virus is gone. It will be applied with a new sense of resolution to other issues that are just as threatening, like climate change, gun control, and homelessness. Young activists, who are diverse, well-educated, and tech-savvy, will lead these movements in collaboration with corporations who understand the power of purpose and the need to make a real difference.

We have learned that we are not immune to the problems facing other countries. We have learned to pay attention to the voices warning us about our future. We have learned how to solve seemingly insurmountable problems when everyone works together. These are the issues explored in the USC Annenberg Global Communication Report on New Activism. Now is the time for communicators to address the critical issues facing society and embrace the people dedicated to solving them.

USC Annenberg’s 2020 Global Communication Report, New Activism, is available for download at

Fred Cook is the Director of the USC Center for Public Relations. As chairman of global PR agency Golin, Fred has 30+ years experience with world-class brands like Amazon, Nintendo and McDonald’s and is the author of “Improvise: Unorthodox Career Advice from an Unlikely CEO.” Follow him on Twitter @FredCook. 

Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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