13 Jun Positivity in the face of adversity.
As we look to go back to our offices next month (all being well), I thought it pertinent to write something about the pandemic we’ve all been living through over the past three months.
As an international PR agency, we felt the effects of Coronavirus earlier than many other companies in the UK and I was very nervous about what was to come.
Due to the concerns I had, we made some internal changes including our team working from home a week earlier than the UK lockdown was implemented. At the time, many thought this was a dramatic move, however as we have vulnerable people within the team, it just wasn’t something I was willing to take a risk with.
Within the first two weeks of lockdown we lost over a third of our client base. To say it was a blow would be a fairly seismic understatement. To watch something that you have spent eleven years pouring every available minute into building crumble was troubling, to say the least.
I made a conscious decision that if a client did need to pause or reduce their contract with us, I would honour this regardless of the situation the business was in. I strongly believed this would continue to foster the positive working relationships we have with our customers and uphold the corporate values in which we have always believed.
So, I tried to be optimistic and had to keep reminding myself that things could always be worse. I was well aware that there were others, such as the hospitality and travel industries, for instance, who were in a terrible place.
It was with this in mind that I decided to set up a Facebook group for businesses in Essex. It wasn’t a platform to advertise, rather one to share, offer advice and support others. The page quickly picked up momentum and within 48 hours had over 700 members.
Did any of us really know how to react?
The situation was one that quite literally nobody in the country had ever experienced. The concoction of fear, confusion and anxiety is something I can only equate with how I imagined people would’ve reacted upon the outbreak of war, for example. I wouldn’t wish how we all felt on my worst enemy.
I was extremely concerned about the business and its survival. Not just for myself but for the team who rely on VerriBerri for their livelihoods. I was also concerned about the wellbeing of the team who were either furloughed or working from home at that point, as I didn’t really know how they felt and how they were faring. Finally, and importantly, I was worried about the physical health of my team, my friends and, of course, my family.
I gave myself a day to panic, worry, cry and fall apart with the proviso that the following morning I was going to get up and make a plan. Every six months I update our five-year plan and I felt it was appropriate to pull that up and read it through because as with any advice I give clients – the end goal cannot change. Drifting off course is inevitable, but it had to come back at some point.
Over the course of the day I decided that what I could do was offer advice on how to work from home and support your team. It’s something I feel passionate about and I also felt that offering marketing and PR advice at that point would be difficult as I didn’t know whether what I was going to be doing would work to get my own company out of this rut, let alone anyone else.
Regardless, I built a strategy that I believed would work and was pinned on the three principles that I always tell clients are crucial. Quality website content paired with SEO, thought-leadership PR angles and, finally, engaging social media.
A huge thank you
Megan from the PR team was an absolute godsend. She really showed her talent, quickly securing our agency 19 PR leads in a variety of media outlets. The headlines ranged from ‘Supporting your employees’ mental health’ to ‘Tips for successful conference calls’. Being able to offer advice and support in whatever way I could was really important to me and I really appreciate the hard work she put in then, and continues to put in now. The links and mentions to the VerriBerri website increased our SEO value which drove traffic and therefore enquires.
Jack from the content team was amazing. I’m shocked he still has fingers the amount of content he wrote for the site! No matter the subject matter, in or out of his marketing remit he took to the project with unwavering enthusiasm. He also took over the running of the Facebook and Twitter; somehow managing to post content that was topical yet amusing. His social and website content was driving enquiries and the level of contact form information I receive now has increased to 8 times that of pre-COVID.
Luke spent untold hours working on LinkedIn. He researched companies we would love to work with and built relationships with them, offering them the opportunity to talk to us about our various USPs – we don’t use freelancers, all our team are in one office (normally) ,and we guarantee high-quality results. We were averaging 21 phone calls a week and converting a rate which would’ve been seen as excellent even without a global pandemic being factored in.
The work the team has put in has been the thing that has made the business successful and meant we are all now back working together. I am beyond grateful that I can say we are coming out of the pandemic in a position where we’re having to recruit for some of the departments.
Just a few months ago I never would have imagined being back in our pre-COVID state so quickly. I am beyond grateful that we are and can only say, if I didn’t know our marketing was amazing before; I have the proof now. This is the first time we have properly focused on marking ourselves; mainly because it’s the first time we have had time; and I won’t be pulling back.
Are we out of the woods yet? In a word, no, none of us are. But I maintain that I will persevere in trying my hardest to continue getting our clients amazing results and providing my team with a supporting environment. That’s all any of us can do really.
A final Word
This is not supposed to sound conceited or brash. Rather, I would like to highlight how by maintaining a sense of positivity in the face of adversity you can adapt. This may mean updating your business model, adapting your plans or making other changes, but flexibility and innovation is key to a company any time it faces hardship, and not just in a pandemic.
COVID-19 has been difficult for us all and this blog is in no way supposed to demean or belittle those effects. I personally know various people who have lost a loved one and have had the same myself. The last quarter has been disastrous for us all in many different ways. I am a true believer that ultimately you have to keep moving forward. Yes, take a day to catch your breath and gather your thoughts but the next day it’s imperative to take positive steps, no matter how small they may seem. As a wise blue fish once said, just keep swimming…