Like many businesses across the world, the Black Vanilla team packed up our desks and moved to our home offices for 10 strange weeks.
The transition from our lovely shared office to an at-home workspace wasn’t always easy, but we quickly discovered how to adapt. We learnt many new things and are now considering carefully how we can maintain the positives and assimilate them into our agency life to help us ‘build back better’.
We asked the team to share what they learnt from working through a global pandemic; here’s what they had to say…
Catharine Haywood, PR Consultant
‘As a PR specialist, I’ve found it really rewarding to see the value that both businesses and individuals have placed on employing new channels of communication to stay visible in an ever-changing landscape.
‘Many of our clients have been relying on good, well-written content to cut through the noise but of course navigating through potential pitfalls and staying relevant in a fast-paced news agenda has kept us on our toes. Now is the time to keep up this activity, as many people continue to look for trusted sources of information.
‘Robust content, whether it’s a thought leadership article in print media, or a timely blog published online, gives brands a golden opportunity to speak directly to their target audiences offering reassurance, insight or advice.
‘Video has also been critical for both internal and external communications and the crisis has once again highlighted the importance of having senior spokespeople who are trained and ready to talk to the media or be filmed.’
Candice Vermeulen, PR Consultant
‘I think that over recent months business leaders have developed a greater appreciation of the value and power of good communication. During the crisis, there was more focus than ever before on communicating and we relied on it so heavily as a community; we need to continue this focus on transparency, post-pandemic.
‘Communication is at the heart of everything we do, it is our job to ensure it’s clear, transparent and meaningful. Knowing that has made us all even more passionate about the agency’s purpose.
‘Personally, during the lockdown, I learnt to be more accepting: the house might have been messy and my toddler may have burst into the odd Zoom call but we’re all in the same boat. We had a glimpse into people’s lives like we had never had before – reviewing their book collections and decorating choices! It put the human factor back into the business and I hope that we can all maintain this humanity going forward.’
Alisha Smith, Account Manager
‘I’d say that one of the biggest things that lockdown highlighted was that there isn’t always a need to have a face-to-face meeting. We’re always very quick to put a coffee or face-to-face catch-up in the diary, but lockdown has shown that a call or Zoom conversation can be more efficient. This is certainly true where we have established relationships with journalists or clients, and of course it makes a lot of sense for our Jersey-based contacts.
‘Having said that, there are of course times when a meeting is absolutely necessary, and we’re delighted to be able to welcome our lovely clients (current and prospective) into the BV Pod for a coffee!’
Krista Osborne, Social Media and Events Executive
‘I enjoyed the relaxed nature of working from home but I did miss being in contact with “real-life people”. However, through harnessing the power of social media we were able to demonstrate a great sense of community for ourselves as a brand and for our clients. The #GuernseyTogether spirit really shone through online. It demonstrates that, with a compelling message, social media can be a real unifying force.
‘Also, it showed the importance of social media as a channel of communication for crisis management. Organisations often shy away from using social media in a crisis but in reality it is one of your strongest assets.’
Katie Leach, Junior PR Executive
‘Working in lockdown has taught me a lot about how the PR industry works through times of crisis and uncertainty. I was surprised at how well Black Vanilla was able to plan and execute a whole campaign for a client, all without leaving our own homes.
‘Recording soundbites and other content over Zoom worked brilliantly and in fact, the constraints drove our creativity further than ever. Going forward I think we will start to naturally question how we do things and this will open up new ideas for our client campaigns.
‘The pandemic also served as a reminder that we have to work within the news agenda and consider how we harness topical issues for our clients. We talked about viewing everything through a “COVID-lens” – tailoring ideas to the current climate is extremely important.’
Natalie Davidson, Events Consultant
‘Lockdown for the events side of the business meant a steep learning curve into the world of webinars and podcasts. The technology has been around for a number of years but working from home forced everyone to embrace it, from the basic team meetings through to taking part in or watching virtual events, and we worked with a number of clients to take their events online.
‘The experience could well have changed events going forward as the emphasis turned much more to the content and the experience and expertise of speakers rather than the venue, stage dressing and graphics; and having all experienced technical issues ourselves we were much more forgiving if something went wrong.
‘The one thing that is difficult to reproduce in a virtual event is the social and networking element so the live event still very much has a place and combining this with technology has the potential to create some really exciting events.’
Nichole Culverwell, Managing Director
‘I have always been a supporter of flexible working and, as an agency, we have the systems in place to enable people to work from anywhere. However, having the team all working from home showed me that, even with collaboration tools, working apart makes it much harder to spark ideas, solve problems and support each other.
‘Of course, we work in client teams, but that doesn’t mean we work in silos, we all chip in with suggestions for any account activity. In the office that happens naturally; we all sit around a pair of large dining tables, there are no closed doors and we are all, literally, there for each other.
‘Lockdown taught me that all the Zoom meetings and collaboration tools can’t beat being together and that, as the team leader, it’s important to be present. So whilst agile working will always be an option at Black Vanilla, working together as a team will always be one of our greatest strengths.’