How are PR firms handling COVID challenges? Here’s one agency’s experience

by | Feb 8, 2021 | Analysis, Public Relations

The last year has been fraught with challenges for every business. Employees have been working from their dining room, many have been furloughed and others have lost their jobs and source of income.

In the grand scheme of things, PR and marketing may have come off lightly—budgets may have been cut, campaigns put on hold and some agencies may have had to make job cuts.

But as with everything, there have been opportunities too. Agencies have by necessity become more flexible both in their offering to clients and the way they work, and there have been client sectors that have flourished since we first went into lockdown.

That’s not to say it hasn’t been without its challenging moments. From the whole team working from home to having the ability to react quickly to the fast-moving news agenda, changes have had to be made.

And working in communications, we do like to talk and work collaboratively. Overcoming that challenge has arguably been one of the hardest.

Here we look at the challenges we’ve been faced with since the outbreak of the pandemic and how we’re dealing with them.

Communication

As a communications team in the office we’re always talking, sharing ideas, updating each other on where we’re at, but as the pandemic hit and the UK went into lockdown that stopped. Finding new ways to keep in touch was one of the challenges we addressed straight away. We found new ways to connect with one another, new ways to be creative in team ideation sessions. Slack has been central to quick communications and Zoom daily to check in with the team.

Remote working

Working from home isn’t without its challenges, especially if you have children at home who need support with home schooling and entertaining. But thanks to technology we have all found a way through, with the odd glitch along the way. I think we’d all agree that deep down we can’t wait to see colleagues again in the flesh!

Client contact

Maintaining client contact was another challenge. But switching to Zoom instead of face to face was painless, and if anything, we’re talking to our clients even more than we were before. We’re also going through the pandemic together, so we’ve shared stories, concerns and the things that have made us laugh. Those conversations have made the client and agency bond even stronger.

Flexible campaigns

There has been a huge amount of flexibility when it’s come to PR campaigns over the last year. The plans we made late 2019 were put on hold as COVID19 took over the news agenda. We had no idea we were about to live through something that we’d one day be telling our grandchildren about. So, all those ideas, the new product development we were working on with clients and campaigns around big events like the Olympics were put on the backburner. Having that flexibility meant our clients were heard above others as we lived through the first lockdown.

Creativity

Creative thinking when you’re all in separate locations isn’t easy but as a creative industry, we have had to make it work. We’ve found new ways of running ideation sessions, including crazy 8’s, and by judging the general mood and monitoring the news agenda, have come up with some great creative campaigns.

Building the team

We’ve been fortunate enough to be able to add to our team during the pandemic, but it’s been a whole new way of recruiting. Interviews on Zoom, onboarding over Zoom has been different and with careful planning, we’ve successfully integrated a number of team members.

If the last year has taught us anything, it’s that as an industry we can adapt and we can still make sure our clients are heard with the right campaign ideas. Being flexible, able to change how we work and to maintain levels of contact has been central to success.

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Sarah Samways
Sarah Samways is Head of PR at Motive. She has worked as a journalist and in PR for over two decades for a wealth of B2C and B2B clients. You can connect with Sarah on LinkedIn.

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