31 Dec What 2020 has taught us about PR and communications
By Emma Speirs, Director at Ballyhoo PR
This time last year none of us could have predicted what 2020 would have had in store for us!
By January there were whispers of an outbreak in Wuhan, but how on earth could that have an affect on our small businesses in the UK? How could that possibly impact our children’s schooling? Or have us speaking to our parents at front doors and through FaceTime?
Here at Ballyhoo PR, we started to see what an impact this outbreak would have on us as a business, a team and as individuals in early March.
We were working on some PR campaigns that centred around events. The press releases were written and ready to go and photographers booked. We were also doing some work for a business magazine that saw us carry out lots of telephone interviews and write them up. One by one these interviews or events were being cancelled or postponed and we had to adapt quickly.
Then the Northamptonshire Chamber cancelled its March Business Exhibition with just a few days to go as it felt it was too unsafe to go ahead.
Things got real at a local level…
Living in lockdown
The following week the country went into lockdown. Schools closed and the team started working from home whilst home schooling simultaneously!
Add to this we started to call around all of our clients asking what their situation was and how we could possibly help. Any 2020 PR plans, that had been so carefully thought out and planned, were well and truly out the window! We were all fighting for survival!
Panic descended and several of our clients called to cancel their contracts with us as, quite sensibly, they were looking to see where they could make cut backs on their outgoings while their businesses had to close.
One of our clients, which is in healthcare, was busier than ever and we had to push out official NHS comms across their sites and social media pages at lightning speed, knowing that in an hour or two these could soon be out of date!
We started walking every day as a family to escape the stress and anxiety of working and schooling in a pandemic and discovered places on our doorstep we didn’t know existed, from meadows and fields to rivers and big hills that our dog loved running over.
By April, furlough was a term we were all familiar with and we started to see the clients we had lost return to us, along with new ones!
They had quickly realised that, even if their doors were closed, they still needed to communicate with their customers and promote their business to new audiences that may need them. We made them visible to the outside world that was now trapped inside! From social media posts and email updates to blog writing and getting articles published in the local and national press and online and even appearances on the TV and radio.
We also welcomed Catherine to the team in April and she slotted in seamlessly to our new remote way of working (whilst also home schooling too!).
School summer holidays came along and meant an end to the home schooling and a bit of hope that by September things would be ‘back to normal’.
The false ‘fresh start’
August was a manic month as we had LOADS of award entries to get in and we landed a big contract with a franchise.
We pinned our hopes on a return to the office in September (when the kids went back to school) and were looking forward to a chance for us to all work together in the office for the first time! We invested money in a new website (which is yet to launch!) and had our first photo shoot as a team of three (see above photo). We started a phased return, working together in the office once or twice a week.
Clients were happy that they were getting ‘out there’ and getting noticed, despite the pandemic. We even managed a couple of face to face meetings, a course in London and put ‘netwalks’ in the diary for the coming weeks.
September also saw us undertake another big comms campaign for the NHS which certainly kept us busy and it was really handy to have those days together in the office whilst working on this – talk about good timing!
Things were looking good and a real excitement was bubbling. There was a definite sense of fresh starts, back to school and a shift in the seasons too.
A second lockdown was announced at Halloween. Thankfully, the schools remained open and we didn’t lose any clients this time. By now, we are all used to operating in a lockdown/pandemic and it had minimal impact. Although, we did make the sad decision to close our office. By now, we had established a way of working remotely that was working and had started to think about what else we could invest that monthly rent payment into that would grow the business further.
November saw us take on another franchise client and December we started working on a big HS2 contract.
In January we have three more new clients coming on board and, hopefully, our new website will go live. We also have plans to be more visible ourselves in 2021 (plumbers and leaky taps come to mind!).
If 2020 has taught us anything, it is about the power of communication. People need to know what you are doing and how if they are going to buy from you. You also need to put out regular communications across all platforms to build trust and authority. It has also shown us about the importance of being real and adapting to change. Pressing on with scheduled posts that won’t resonate with anyone is pointless. Think about what people need from you right now. What information are they looking for from you? How can you answer their questions or help them to solve their problems?
PR and comms have never been so important.
If you would like support with your PR and comms in 2021, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we can set up an online meeting or phone call to see how we can help.