Reflecting on COVID-19 as an agency

2020 will always be the year of the pandemic. Although individual days seemed insignificant as we stayed home to keep each other safe all while baking banana bread, holding more Zoom meetings than we can count, joining in with P.E with Joe, and becoming increasingly tired of virtual quizzes, we’ll undoubtedly tell stories of this time (and children will learn about it in history books) for years to come. Now, March 23rd, 2021 marks the COVID-19 national day of reflection, organised by Marie Curie, one year on from the PM’s first lockdown announcement. Think back to March 23rd, 2020. It was one of those rare moments where it felt like the whole nation was tuned in to the live broadcast and we (like many others) were left stunned and braced ourselves for what was to come – personally and professionally.

So today offers us an important opportunity to look back on the year that was, and what we’ve learnt from this challenging and (dare we say it) unprecedented time. For this blog, our team has reflected on their personal experiences of the pandemic, what agency life looked like behind the scenes and how they coped with personal challenges.

The professional….

Preparations for the team

At the start of the outbreak, it was unimaginable that we would be facing lockdown restrictions one year later. All around us, businesses were putting crisis plans in place that would cover them for a few weeks or maybe a month at maximum. But here, our leaders immediately created a 100-day plan to put a structure in place for the team to support home working practices, prevent work-life from creeping into home life (although we all became a little guilty of this) and ultimately, stay positive. While others prepared (and hoped) for a quick resolve, they saw that this wasn’t going away quickly and worked on long-term contingencies. It was the first time that the reality of the situation became apparent for the whole team and we’ll be honest, it was pretty daunting. But as a flexible working agency, we were already experienced in homeworking and with considerations in place, we were able to hit the ground running with the full backing of the whole team.

The frontline of crisis communications

Perhaps unsurprisingly, we were quickly thrust into the world of crisis communications for all of our clients at the start of lockdown. This meant curating essential COVID statements, keeping their clients (and ours) informed, and hosting urgent strategy sessions with the big question looming – ‘what comes next?’ We saw an increase in digital marketing efforts, switching to online services (where possible) and offering home delivery options to keep their business accessible to their customers. Agency life had accelerated to new speeds (it could hardly be described as slow in the first place!), and we were working at pace for the first few months, but we’re proud to say that this led to some exceptional work too.

Growing the team remotely

We’ve been extremely fortunate for the wonderful people that work with us (team and clients alike) and to have been able to continue to grow our support and services during what has been a harrowing time.  As workloads increased due to new (and existing) client wins, building our team further became a necessity. But the restrictions, meant we had to do this virtually. For existing team members (and our latest recruit), this was new territory. How do you build relationships with someone you’ve not met? But we quickly found that there were fewer barriers when everyone is working remotely and ultimately in the same boat. It’s also meant that we were able to expand our digital marketing offering for our clients by welcoming our digital manager, Rhydian. And we haven’t looked back.

The personal….

Saying goodbye to loved ones

No one has been left unaffected by the pandemic. We couldn’t write a piece about reflection without thinking about the loved ones that our team, our friends, our clients and the whole nation have lost during this time. The latest ONS figures show that 146,000 people have died in the UK with COVID listed on their death certificate. To say it’s been hard would be an understatement. For some, we appreciate that it has been an unthinkable period of grief and with funeral restrictions in place, this has become more emotionally charged. This is not something that we can quickly forget or even fully process at this time but these people, today, more than ever are in our thoughts.

Wellbeing challenges

The last year has had a direct impact on the wellbeing of the nation, and we can hold up our hands and say yes, us too. Just like everyone else, we’ve been confined to four walls, cut off from social contact with friends and family, took on home schooling duties, worked under pressure and faced personal challenges. We’re human so let’s just say it – it all takes a toll. Wellbeing is always a priority within the agency, but the last 12 months has encouraged us to take this one step further. For some, that’s meant self-development and personal evolution, for others it’s been about focusing on the little things, like spending time in nature. It’s all a process and sometimes the bravest thing to do is to just keep going.

How have we got through?

  • Connection – Seeking out and maintaining connections (personal or professional) hasn’t been easy for anyone during this time. Loneliness numbers doubled since March 2020 because as humans, we crave contact and valuable connections. For us to stay connected, it’s meant a lot of Zoom, phone calls, ‘thinking of you’ boxes, those ‘how are you doing, really?’ messages, and not being ashamed or afraid to ask for help. It all adds up.
  • Compassion – For those who have been struggling with mental wellbeing, loss of job security, grief, family responsibilities and everything in between, compassion is essential.  It’s hard to gauge how someone is *really* doing when you’re always communicating through a device. So, we’ll keep saying it – be kind.
  • Creativity – It’s the spark that keeps us going. Like all other agencies, the pandemic has meant shifting priorities for all clients (and us too) and getting even more creative to reach audiences who are facing digital fatigue as they spend increasing amounts of time on their devices. We’ve also loved seeing other agencies bringing creative campaigns to life and capture audience attention (including the beans on Weetabix controversy).

There’s been so much trauma, loss, pain and growth over the last year. So, as a final word from us on this day of reflection, remember to focus on who and what is important, just keep going.