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.”
“Every problem is a gift—without problems we would not grow.” – Anthony Robbins
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 Brookline Public Relations [TCO].
Has your agency launched any new services/offering for brands over the last 6 months?
In late 2019, we launched our in-house Graphic Design team, which has continued to grow and develop in 2020. Our clients have seen the value in utilizing our graphic designers as it ensures consistency through all communication assets.
While in our remote work environment, we have adapted many of our offerings to best suit our clients’ needs, such as hosting virtual media training sessions to ensure we are still able to provide thorough media relations practices to our clients. In addition, we have seen a rise in virtual events utilizing streaming services to engage with media and the community. In some cases, we have planned and executed socially distanced events, such as press conferences, in accordance with health and safety guidelines, which involve far more protocols and safety measures than pre-COVID.
What has worked really well for you and your team as you moved to work from home model?
Brookline PR has a very strong organizational culture and has always placed great emphasis on providing the team with a collaborative space to work together. While there is something to be said about in-office informal team interactions, holding onto organizational values and our pillars has allowed us to remain close while physically apart during this time.
Some of our team practices/activities that have helped us remain in sync include socially-distanced team meetings, virtual team workouts, and virtual “face-to-face” team meetings – our team enjoys any opportunity to see and interact with each other. We have also made our virtual team meetings exciting by introducing weekly themes, such as 70s, vacation mode, etc. As well, we continue to celebrate team wins, big or small, to ensure the team feels motivated and excited about the work we are producing.
Overall, our culture has ensured that the team’s transition to working from home has been as smooth as possible. Our team’s collaborative nature has ensured business continuity and understanding while navigating home commitments.
Will your team go back to full-time office?
The past few months have demonstrated the resiliency and adaptability of our team, and have proven that while apart, we are still able to work collectively; however, there is still something to be said for in-person collaborations that you can’t quite match virtually. Ultimately, the team makes the most out of the environment they work in, and as we move forward and navigate the next steps of COVID-19, it will be a team-wide process to decide what works best for our team and the agency.
What has been the biggest learning for you over the last 6 months? For your agency?
The biggest learning from the last six months would have to be the realisation that no matter the challenge or how rocky the road, the Brookline team is ready, willing, and able to pitch in and lend a hand to each other and our clients. We always pride ourselves on our amazing culture and our ability to provide our clients with top-notch work and the last six months has been no exception. Our team has demonstrated how agile we are when it comes to getting things done and supporting one another, which we are so proud of!
How has communications changed as a result of COVID-19?
Communications have become more important than ever as a result of COVID-19. Whether engaging with employees, stakeholders or the public, we have seen on both a macro and micro level that timely, clear, targeted communications have been key to guiding audiences through the fast-changing pandemic. When it comes to how brands communicate in particular, we have seen a major rise in digital communications – from moving events and activations online to greater integrated marketing through social media and digital advertising. Brands are also creating new online content to engage audiences at home, such as webinars, how-to videos, and more – realizing that although virtual, video experiences are key to ensuring people feel connected. Communications are evolving to pay greater attention to the online user experience, which is a space that has long-deserved increased attention.
What does ‘digital’ mean to brands post COVID-19?
Despite having heard for years that brick & mortar stores are becoming obsolete, the COVID-19 pandemic has truly shown brands the importance of having an online presence, particularly when physical doors were closed. Brands have quickly pivoted to enable ecommerce, virtual appointments and online customer service to sustain their business. It has enabled already-digital brands to become even more innovative: West Elm created a virtual room planner, Starbucks enhanced its mobile app to make ordering coffee contactless and safe, and many service industry providers switched to online appointments and consultations.
At Brookline, we have seen our clients evolve with the changes, making their offerings more accessible, yet safe: The Brick developed a curbside collection program, Jayman BUILT streamed a Balcony Bash concert to their online followers, and most notably the Oilers Entertainment Group navigated the NHL playoffs without fan attendance, switching their focus to digital engagement. Consumers have now had a taste of this level of convenience, and few are likely to want to give some of these enhancements up. The expectation moving forward for brands will be to provide a digital experience that continues to offer innovation and convenience to its customers.
COVID-19 forced consumers to adopt to digital faster (20% of people who bought online did so for the first time), is it here to stay?
Digital of course is here to stay. As we all know with innovation, there are innovators and early adopters and then there are laggards. Laggards will tend to adopt an innovation last and more than likely due to an event/issue or circumstance. COVID-19 can definitely be labelled an event!
As we move forward into recovery, digital “savviness” will remain crucial as retailers and brands adapt to consumer preferences shaped and shifted by the pandemic. As such, brands equipped with online capabilities and strategies will be best positioned to weather and recover from the current crisis. The pandemic has impacted companies worldwide, but has also provided new opportunities combined with a sense of urgency for brands to develop and enhance their digital capabilities. Those prioritizing their digital transformation will be more agile and better equipped for success as the world eventually emerges from this pandemic.
How can marketers grow their brand post-COVID?
Whether it is a shift to supporting local or standing behind organizations whose values align with their own – consumers are becoming more aware, cost conscious and savvier with their purchases. COVID-19 has hit many consumers and businesses hard economically. Consumers will support those businesses who have gone above and beyond to show value to their customers.
In the past few months, we have seen many organizations adapt to their surroundings, acknowledging the challenging times, and doing their part to support the community. Businesses have developed new products that service the current climate, donated to causes, and ensured the financial stability of their staff – this has defined their position in their industry as an organization that faces challenges, rather than avoids them.
How can brands earn consumer attention in this new world [if you have any specific campaigns you’ve helped launch to achieve this, something measurable]
It’s important to know your consumers and follow them where they are. Staying on top of current trends, such as social media platforms, streaming services, popular websites, etc. is essential in understanding how your consumer demographic is receiving information. However, we emphasize that it is important to know your audience – not every demographic has made the leap to TikTok, so not all businesses have to either. Given the evolving climate of our consumption of information, research and understanding is key – and willingness to adapt to this new environment will ultimately make or break an organization.
How can brands earn the trust of consumers?
Consumers are increasingly trusting of brands that take a stance, whether that be on quality of product or service, societal issues or organizational standards, transparency regarding their values and operations is key. It is important that the PR agency a brand chooses also supports and aligns with their values. Ultimately, public trust in a brand means customer retention, and in today’s environment, trust is more important than ever.