Running a public relations agency is not easy, 2020 has been a major test to all of agencies, and every single person involved in an agency. Agency leadership teams have had to adjust to a new ways of not just maintaining business and servicing clients, but looking to the future of growth and the “new-normal.”
“I don’t know the word ‘quit.’ Either I never did, or I have abolished it.” – Susan Butcher
As part of a special series, we reached out to a public relations agencies across the country for our 2020 Half Year Check In, what are some of the key learnings, what is working (and not), what does the future of marketing look like and more. Here is our interview with 1Milk2Sugars [TCO].
Has your agency launched any new services/ offering for brands over the last 6 months?
Over the last few months, our team continued to ‘Zoom’ in on meeting client needs. But we also zoomed in on ways to meet their future needs. This month, we are thrilled to unveil a brand new digital offering, designed with clients’ post Covid-19 needs in mind. Our revamped digital offering includes the addition of:
- E-Com & web development
- Email marketing
- Paid search advertising
We also knew social distancing would have a major impact, translating into media & influencers distancing from physical showrooms. We quickly found a sweet alternative: our new Digital Showroom. This new platform helps brands maximize their PR leverage, with seamless access for media contacts to hi-res images, press releases, pricing, availability, and credit details on-demand, 24/7.
What has worked really well for you and your team as you moved to work from home model?
Just like with our client comms, we have had to pay more attention to our internal communication. But most importantly, we have put empathy and kindness at the heart of our management. This has been vital to our successful WFH transition. Here are three ways we’ve displayed more empathy in our leadership and communication:
- Eliminate all superfluous work: Focus on what’s essential and urgent. Right now your team might not have the same (physical, mental, family) space to work normally the way they do at the office.
- Check-in more regularly: Some of your employees may be alone at home and the interactions they have at work may be vital to them. Ask how they are doing regularly and implement new support mechanisms in your team. For example, we’ve started offering a virtual Monday meditation session with an expert and have a reoccurring end of week virtual cocktail hour.
- Understanding positive feedback is essential: When you are with your people IRL, a lot of things go without saying. But when working remotely, what usually goes without saying must be said. Seize every opportunity to say “thank you” and “well done”. Implementing a simple “Team Weekly Wins” email to recap and celebrate even the smallest successes can have a huge impact.
- Will your team go back to full-time office (when that becomes an option)?
We had already implemented more flexible remote work policies pre-covid, but over the last few months, it’s been made quite clear to us that we can maintain our performance standards while working remotely. It’s not about throwing out all the rules, but rather about letting the team co-create them. By sending out regular surveys to gauge their interest and identify their concerns we were able to better understand each employee’s current reality and are looking forward to an eventual voluntary return to office.
What has been the biggest learning for you over the last 6 months? For your agency?
That with the right team and trusting clients, you can get through just about anything, and even come out stronger, together.
How has communications changed as a result of COVID-19?
To be absolutely clear, the coronavirus crisis is not a promotional opportunity or chance for businesses to grow their reach. In fact, any brand that moves to capitalize on people’s fears during a pandemic could face a significant consumer backlash. And it’s not just about the pandemic anymore. This is, however, an important time for brands to prioritize their communications objectives and formulate a plan that breathes purpose, diversity and understanding into their marketing. If you are a brand leader that has not yet thought about your new strategy, current events necessitate you start as soon as possible.
What does ‘digital’ mean to brands post COVID-19?
We don’t really think it means anything new. It’s still the same reliable, turnkey, short-lead medium that allows brands to get their messages out quickly. It’s an adaptable space that allows brands to test, pivot, halt or change up their strategy as needed.
COVID-19 forced consumers to adopt digital faster (20% of people who bought online did so for the first time), is it here to stay?
Yes, however, I think that was determined long before the Covid-19 pandemic. In 2018, an estimated 1.8 billion people worldwide purchased goods online (Statista, 2018). In the same year, global e-retail sales amounted to $2.8 trillion. And while online shopping did increase during the pandemic I think it’s safe to say that anyone that made their first ecom purchase during the pandemic was far behind the curve. We are just so lucky to have had the ability to shop online and in turn, support the retail economy by doing so.
How can marketers grow their brand post-covid?
The rules of the game haven’t really changed that much. The same marketing principles still apply. Some additional precautions and considerations need to be made for public spaces like shops and restaurants but overall it’s still about driving brand awareness through PR / media relations, social media & paid advertising. (and even OOH, print, radio and other ad methods). Events will obviously take longer to rebound so brands need to get creative in finding ways to deliver an “experience” to consumers.
How can brands earn consumer attention in this new world?
One very important matter to consider is “Purpose”. If there is anything that the pandemic and Black Lives Matter movement have taught us, it’s that there will continue to be a greater need for transparency and authenticity related to your brand mission, values, and overall purpose. However you market and whatever channels you use – do it with thoughtful intention. Radical diversity and representation of BIPOC are of the utmost importance and if you haven’t showcased solid diversity within your marketing campaigns then it’s time to step up. We have always encouraged our clients to focus on diversity of race, age and ability and will continue to push for this to be at the forefront of any strategy.
How can brands earn the trust of consumers?
Don’t just talk the talk – walk the walk. Hire BIPOC & LGBTQ staff in leadership roles to ensure that your campaigns are vetted to be relevant & representative of all consumers. Purpose trumps price these days, especially with millennials and gen z demographics so if you haven’t already, build your social responsibility programs, give back to charitable organizations and environmental groups, adopt sustainability practices and be transparent.