Marketing through a lockdown

Today we mark one year since the first UK lockdown and I have been reflecting on what a year it has been.

Thankfully, I have not lost anyone to COVID-19, nor have I or any of my immediate family had the virus. But it has been a somewhat worrying time. We’ve all had to cope with new challenges be they large or small. Wearing face coverings, social distancing, home educating children (and a new found respect for teachers!), learning new terms like ‘furlough’, working from home (which was the norm for me anyway but not with a full household), and not being able to see family & friends, are things we have all had to get used to.

In terms of work, I’ve been one of the lucky ones. In March 2020, literally a few days before lockdown, I started a contract with Midlands and Lancashire Commissioning Support Unit (MLCSU) working part time within one of their clients – Telford and Wrekin Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) – providing communications support. Much of the work I have been delivering has related to coronavirus communications support, reacting to and cascading national COVID messaging to residents across Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin.

Alongside working for MLCSU, I have continued to support my existing clients many of whom work in the manufacturing sector which require employees to be on-site. Despite lockdown and home working, these companies are classed as ‘essential’ businesses and continued to operate.  But how, and should you, market a business during a global pandemic?

Given the enormity of the pandemic, it just didn’t feel right to carry on with the level of marketing employed pre-March 2020, so many of my clients adjusted their strategies and plans and we focussed on ‘we’re still here/open’ and ‘here to help’ messaging, limiting proactive PR and advertising campaigns to core messages. Undertaking this reduced, drip-feed of core comms enabled them to maintain a presence with their customers (direct and through social media), reminding their customers that the company was still open, operating and supporting key industries.  And this approach has served them well.

A key lesson I learnt from the last year is whilst it’s important to forward plan your communications campaigns, you also need to be reactive and conscious of the market and conditions you operate in and adjust at short notice where necessary.  We’ve had to cancel or move the dates of events we were planning, but in the scale of things this wasn’t a problem. I’m pleased to report that all of my clients are still operating, many sustaining or in fact improving their performance, developing new products or recruiting, and all have adjusted to the new way of working.

It’s been a very busy 12 months for me as I’ve balanced my work for the NHS (it’s been satisfying to play a small part during the pandemic) and my work for my clients. I don’t think I’ve worked harder! I’m relieved that there is an end in sight thanks to the vaccination programme and I look forward to being able to visit my clients in person again, catching up over a coffee and planning proactive marketing campaigns for the second half of 2021 and into 2022.

Remember, to stay safe. #HandsFaceSpace