How companies innovated to thrive during lockdown

Who would have thought that the year 2020 would have seen such a dramatic introduction to the new decade? Empty supermarket shelves and people scrambling for the last bottle of hand sanitiser were scenes that became all too familiar.

Adjusting to the new norm, web-based technology has been the saving grace that has kept people connected. During a time when physical contact has been limited and social gatherings prohibited, social media and video conferencing apps have been the solutions to help everyone stay connected.

Businesses and brands have also had to think of creative approaches to engage with their customers and provide high-quality services in new ways when they cannot meet or engage customers, prospects, or stakeholders as normal. It’s no surprise that for both personal and professional usage, Zoom has become a lifeline.  Last December the video conferencing platform had 10m users and by March 2020 this grew exponentially to 200m.

Zoom has become an important tool for our work at brookscomm to maintain both internal and external communication. We’ve been onboarding new clients, running workshops and providing digital PR and digital marketing training via Zoom, as well as the usual progress meetings with our clients.

With lockdown measures now beginning to ease, we would like to share with you some of our favourite ways that brands have innovated to keep their business thriving during lockdown:

Brightening lockdown days

Daydreaming of a spring break or summer holiday that never happened due to the pandemic was common for most people. Holiday rentals website Airbnb offered free downloadable images of its stunning spaces and idyllic location to soothe the pain of being stuck indoors. Burger King also played its role in encouraging people to stay at home by making its delivery app into a social distancing device that tracked a user’s location using the geolocation function. With their consent, users that stayed at home were rewarded with prizes such as snacks and vouchers for free combos.

Home workout boss

It is safe to say Joe Wicks is the king of home workouts now. Eager to encourage school children to exercise, the body coach was scheduled for a nationwide school tour before the pandemic hit and decided to switch to daily workout routines on YouTube. Over 13 weeks, Joe Wicks amassed over 70 million views and smashed the world record for largest workout live-stream. With all gyms closed across the country, local gyms offered online classes as an alternative to get people active.

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Fitness trainer innovates with huddle camera

Online PT sessions that either need two instructors or include a lot of different activities may be tricky to show on an ordinary webcam, which hindered many fitness trainers looking to deliver classes via video call. We’ve seen Surrey-based personal training company Marek’s Fitness overcome this by using an innovative wide-angle digital camera from AVer Europe for his fitness classes so that he and his partner could showcase a range of movements to a full class without having to squeeze into the shot. The camera allowed the class experience to be as close to the real thing as possible for Marek’s Fitness customers, and as a result, the company’s business has thrived during lockdown.

Immersive virtual reality

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With the global pandemic disrupting the summer mosh pits, most festivals and outdoor gatherings have been cancelled or postponed till next year. It was, therefore, a welcome surprise for fans to see that Wireless festival was not only going ahead virtually as Wireless Connect but also in collaboration with virtual reality platform MelodyVR to make the experience more interactive. Wireless streamed the ticketed festival on Facebook Live YouTube and made performances available in 360​° immersive virtual reality on smartphones and VR headsets.

The return of football

After a long hiatus, sports are finally back on screen. The Premier League returned mid-June but with empty stadiums due to government safety guidelines, the industry had to find a solution to regain excitement, atmosphere, and energy. Sky Sports partnered with EA Sports FIFA to add artificial crowd noise to the match broadcasts, which is controlled by a virtual audio director who can alter the intensity of roars, claps, and chants with one tap of a finger. The show – or in this case the game – must go on, and this innovative approach has brought the beautiful game back to life.

A new way of life

Agility and flexibility have been the name of the game for businesses worldwide, who have been making quick changes in these unprecedented times for the good of society and their customers. Technology has continued to connect us, helping us to maintain the human connection which is fundamental to our daily lives. It has fostered personal and business communities behind screens.

Before the pandemic, it was common to hear about the negative effects technology may have on individuals and people were encouraged to limit their time on social media. While many of us would agree that moderation is key, it’s clear that with creative thinking, agility and flexibility, brands have been able to use technology to maintain relationships with consumers and thrive during these unprecedented times.

 

Ensuring a delivery focused approach to PR and marketing

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We are delighted to announce that we have created a new role, appointing Carys Geer as Client Services Director.

The role of client services director is crucial to our business, as evidenced by our recent smooth switch to whole team remote working. Carys joined brookscomm in 2018 as Project Leader and has key industry experience plus a commitment to exceptional service provisions for our clients.

We caught up with Carys to find out more about the role, what it means to her and how it will benefit brookscomm’s clients.

What does this new role mean for brookscomm? 

Marketing and communications as a practice is continually evolving, changing how we consume and share news with partners, customers, prospects and our peers. As an integrated agency, brookscomm has continued to thrive over the last 25 years by staying agile, anticipating and adapting its services to what its clients need. The Client Services Director role is central to the team, exploring ideas to improve the agency’s future delivery and ensuring outputs are aligned to our clients’ strategic goals. This will enable us to develop our service in a dynamic and forward-thinking way. This is critical when rolling out changes in a business to ensure consistency for both the team and clients.

What does the position mean to you?

In my career to date, I’ve experienced a few different agency environments. Finding the balance between successful delivery to clients, advancing the agency from a commercial perspective and investing in a growing team is notoriously difficult. What’s exciting to me is that this role is an opportunity to oversee and maintain this careful balance at brookscomm, working across all facets of the business. The increased focus on business leadership and development is something that really interests me and provides a great progression for my career path. It’s really rewarding to help shape the agency, develop the PR and marketing experts of tomorrow and deliver services that not just meet client objectives, but also wow our clients.

What prompted the introduction of this new role?

The different elements of this role have always existed at brookscomm sitting within different remits in the agency over the years. The creation of this new role reflects our continued commitment to an integrated approach to delivery at brookscomm. We have various specialists across our service areas within the team and so this role oversees the combined expertise, bringing it all together to provide a seamless, valuable service for our clients. Our integrated service, combining various marketing and PR activities, is adding real value to clients’ businesses and we anticipate this area of the business growing considerably, very much supported by the introduction of this role.

Has COVID-19 impacted how this role was designed to look?

Like the rest of the world, we couldn’t have anticipated the significant changes brought on by the coronavirus crisis. And while we’re extremely fortunate that we can continue working and servicing our clients, how we do this looks different to how it did a few months ago. The same is the case for the client services role, however the fundamentals of the position remain the same. Having a client services lead has been critical in transitioning the team to work from home, ensuring that delivery to clients is impacted as little as possible, and ensuring we can run systems and processes virtually for the agency as normal.

What should prospective clients look for when choosing their communications service supplier?

A company should never underestimate the value of a great marketing and PR agency. We’ve found in recent years that companies get more from in an integrated approach to PR and marketing rather than the disciplines operating in isolation, which helps to streamline activities, get better results and measure outcomes more effectively.

The right agency will be so much more than a group of people delivering good results; they will be consultants with great business acumen, partners that have your best interests at heart and will treat your business as if it was their own. That’s always been our approach at brookscomm, which means our clients get so much more from us than what is agreed at the outset of the campaign or contract. It’s no wonder that so many of our client and media contacts have been with us for decades.

Follow brookscomm on Twitter (@PRexpertsUK) or LinkedIn to stay up to date and find out more about our integrated service offering here.

 

How to look after yourself during challenging times

While some of us may stay physically well through self-isolation and social distancing during this unprecedented period, a potential side effect of these practices is a negative impact on our own mental health.

New research from the Mental Health Foundation has revealed that more than 60% of adults had felt anxious or worried as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic – and that was before the UK went into lockdown. Although not everyone will be affected in the same way, this situation is new to most of us and people may find themselves struggling in ways they haven’t before.

With that in mind, we wanted to share some advice that we’ve gathered from various sources around how to look after ourselves during the coming weeks. We hope that this might be useful for you, or to share with others.

  1. Keep in a routine

Structure in your day can help you practice good boundaries for working at home to ensure you have time for rest and relaxation. Professor of Public Health Linda Bauld explained on BBC Debate Night earlier this month that this can include things such as waking up to an alarm like a normal working day, getting ready, checking in with friends or family, or taking a morning walk.

  1. Speak to people each day

Make the most of video calls, FaceTime, chat apps or a traditional phone call to socially engage with friends and family virtually. The same goes for checking in with and working with colleagues when we’re based at home. While we may not be able to meet them physically, the social interaction can boost our mood and keep us connected to the outside world.

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  1. Get some exercise and fresh air

Staying active is a great way to refresh the mind, distract ourselves momentarily from a difficult situation and release endorphins to keep us feeling positive. It’s also a “classic anxiety reduction strategy” according to Dr Ken Duckworth, medical director of National Alliance on Mental Illness.

  1. Monitor your media intake

It’s very easy with a lot going on and so many news sources to stay constantly connected to the news, however many are finding that negativity in the news is causing anxiety or distress. The World Health Organisation recommends that we seek updates and guidance at specific times of the day and avoid listening to or following rumours that might make us feel uncomfortable.

  1. Eat a balanced diet to boost your immune system

When we’re all at home we may be led to feel bored and reach for foods or substances that can bring comfort, however in excess these may make you feel worse. By monitoring our intake and being aware of its impact, we can then alter it if we feel necessary. Try to have a balanced lifestyle even when we are limited to what we can do.

  1. Take regular breaks

We’re generally used to getting up and making a drink, attending meetings or heading out for a break during the day. At home there’s less things to break up our working pattern and screen time, so make an effort to have regular breaks to give your mind (and your eyes!) a rest.

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  1. Practice positive thinking

There’s a lot around us that can bring us down at the moment. It may sound simple but focusing on positivity –  whether that’s reflecting on things you’re grateful for each day or intentionally thinking about something that’s made you happy recently – helps us to channel our thoughts so that we remember things to stay happy about.

If you feel you need additional support, we recommend you seek further advice or help. If you’re concerned about symptoms that you or people you know are experiencing, visit the NHS website for more details on Coronavirus, or to access resources to support your mental health and wellbeing.

Other charities such as Mind and Time To Change also have a wealth of resources for those experiencing mental health problems or looking to support a struggling friend or family member.

Stay safe – look after yourselves and your community!

The brookscomm team

Choosing the right communications partner for 2020

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As we settle into a new decade, most organisations will be reviewing their communications activities and anticipating how they will contribute to their overall business strategy over the coming years.  And despite the current economic climate still looking somewhat uncertain, it’s encouraging to hear that 61% of marketing leaders are expecting budget growth throughout 2020, with 86% even predicting that the political and economic environment over the next two years will have a positive effect on business performance.

However, with this budget growth and optimism comes a responsibility: how do you utilise your marketing spend to get the best return and crucially, how do you find the right partner to help you achieve your goals?

A tailored approach

Look for a communications partner that is flexible and adaptable to your needs, so that you are getting the most out of the relationship to add measurable value to your business. This enables a seamless partnership with your own team and resource so that a communications agency can simply be an extension of your existing operations.

Unique insight

The adage is true that many hands make light work but working with a communications partner isn’t just about having extra pairs of hands. The right agency will also add value with innovative ideas, an external point of view and expertise to ensure you’re making the most out of your existing marketing and communications activity. They will listen intently and ask relevant questions, challenging you with concepts and new solutions that you might not otherwise have thought of. 

Commercially focused and industry qualified

Ask a potential partner to demonstrate how they have added value for their clients. Do they have client case studies and testimonials that showcase previous successes?  Discover how they measure the impact of their communications activities, how they present this information and how often they review activities with their clients. It’s imperative that your communications partner is commercially astute and understands that its function is to help meet your business strategy. The CIPR and CIM are champions of best-practice cost-effective communication strategies, so find out if the practitioners in your communications agency are qualified and active members of these institutes.

Powerful relationships

Building strong relationships with your partner ensures that all stakeholders are aligned with clear objectives, measurable outcomes and a comprehensive understanding of messaging. The better your relationship with your communications agency, the more value the team can add as a business partner. Find an agency team with great business acumen and one that has your best interests at heart.

By getting the right communications agency in place and all fully committing to achieving the same goals, the partnership could be one that continues to add value for decades to come. To find out how brookscomm could become your trusted communications partner, please get in touch.

Christmas TV ads: what are the magic ingredients needed to win the top spot?

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By Mwamba Malama, PR and Digital Account Executive 

Every year the never-ending debate on whether the Christmas season begins in December or November causes a stir. But our favourite brands and retailers are set on making the decision for us by releasing their new Christmas adverts from early November to get us in the festive spirit.

With all the effort and big budgets marketing departments put into their creative campaigns, what is the ultimate recipe for a successful Christmas ad?

A spoonful of synergy

Brands are increasingly optimising multiple platforms to deliver their new Christmas messaging to audiences, and this year is no exception. Incorporating different media such as TV, print and online as part of a strong marketing strategy ensures that the ads have a wider reach and impact.

Marks&Spencer – Go Jumpers

M&S has broken the mould this year from the standard warm and fuzzy Christmassy ad with an energetic dance ad. Dancers shoulder roll to the soundtrack of House of Pain’s Jump Around. With an undeniably good pun, the retailer also partnered with Spotify to create the ultimate throwback playlist and developed the Metro’s first ever video embedded wrap for selected London commuters. And if that wasn’t enough, a flash mob recreated the infectious dance at London stations which sparked online conversation Traditionally, the target market of M&S has been perceived as an older generation, so this modern campaign appears to be a step change from that to entice a younger audience.

Sainsbury’s – Nicholas the Sweep

Sainsbury’s uses age old tropes such as the Dickensian fairy tale and a falsely accused orphan, Nicholas, to pull at heart strings and to commemorate 150 years of service. Like M&S, the supermarket giant invested in a wrap of the Metro designed as an old newspaper that reported on the escapades outlined in its TV advert. The appearance of orange satsumas in the black and white scenes is a smart highlight of the retailer’s brand image and a nice tie in with the festive season. The company has utilised multiple channels to grab consumer attention and no doubt sales of easy peelers will be up this festive season.

A pinch of community

A common theme appearing across many adverts this year is a strong sense of community and the importance of unity during the merry season. This is a theme that is always well received at this time of year and is bound to win hearts and minds all over the country (take a look at our previous blog to see how the Christmas ads tug at our heart strings!).

John Lewis and Waitrose – Excitable Edgar

John Lewis, the godfather of Christmas adverts, joined forces with Waitrose this year to create a two and half minute cinematic experience around Edgar the Dragon. An emphasis on acceptance and inclusion is beautifully depicted in this short film, as the little girl’s flame breathing friend is excluded and eventually welcomed back by the community. The advert has been received remarkably well with #ExcitableEdgar trending for days on Twitter after its launch, achieving over 45k Twitter retweets and eight million YouTube views gained online – not to mention the Excitable Edgar merchandise that’s selling out in stores. Once again, it appears John Lewis is the front runner in best Christmas ads.

A dash of originality

IKEA – Silence the critics

A Christmas ad with no sign of snow, Santa or sleigh bells ringing? Unheard of! We can’t look at this year’s Christmas ads without mentioning IKEA. The home retailer has creatively disrupted the status quo in its very first Christmas ad. The Swedish store enlisted UK grime artist D Double E as the voice of inanimate objects that convince homeowners to redecorate for the holidays. The unexpected arrival of the ad and inclusion of D Double E stimulated conversation online which resulted in #IKEA trending nationally. The retailer is hosting in-store events to help customers be ‘home ready’ for guests over the festive period as part of the campaign.  This is a great example of how originality can help set a brand apart, get people talking and create something memorable for its audience.

Brands continue to compete for the top spot with their Christmas ads each year and while they choose their own flavour, these core ingredients still pop up. Whatever your favourite is, it’s clear a true feast of Christmas ads has been served for 2019.

Which one has been your favourite and why? Tweet us on @PRexpertsUK to tell us or leave a comment below!