It’s undeniable that industries across the nation have been significantly impacted by COVID-19. Many businesses who were once lucrative establishments with enviable portfolios saw their businesses crumble in a matter of days due to the pandemic and the shutdown of the economy.
Agencies have been no exception to this trend. In a survey published by PRovoke Media, a leading public relations and communications publication, 42% of respondents expected their agencies would experience pay cuts, while 75% reported a loss of earnings since the onset of COVID-19. Further, a staggering 81% reported that client campaigns have been delayed or cancelled altogether.
For many agencies, including Blue Door, COVID-19 has posed as a sink or swim scenario and has forced us to challenge the traditional model and services of our agency to do better for our people, our clients, and our communities.
As we began our transformation, we’ve also watched and drawn inspiration from the successes of others in our industry, taking time to evaluate the moves by agency leaders and missteps as well, and have been impressed by the ingenuity and creativity that agencies brought to the table.
As we begin to enter the next phase of the pandemic, we’ve put together an overview of some of the most innovative solutions to COVID-19 from fellow agencies.
In May 2020, Major Tom, a digital agency with offices in New York, Toronto, and Vancouver, announced their plans to help reduce costs and put power back in the hands of restaurants through a partnership with the Dublin-based online ordering system, Flipdish.
As the pandemic had shifted the business models of many restaurants, third-party apps like UberEats, Ritual, SkipTheDishes, and DoorDash took commission between 15-30% off every order made.
Noticing a gap in the market with current apps, the partnership between Flipdish and Major Tom aimed to put control back into the hands of restaurants, while also allowing them to retain valuable data. With free technology, easy integration into existing POS systems, and the ability to track eCommerce, this was a service never seen in Canadian hospitality.
In response to the reopening across Asia, international firm H+K launched I-ACT. Using behavioural science, I-ACT helps businesses mitigate risk, building reputation and accelerating growth while they navigate the new realities of a post-COVID-19 world.
I-ACT works by categorizing businesses into one of five typologies: failing or absent market, re-started market, evolved market, accelerated market, or new market. Once the business typology is determined, I-ACT creates a custom response by bringing together local regulatory expertise with global insights, encompassing political, policy and regulatory issues, combined with human and cultural dynamics
All of which boils down to creating a campaign based on what consumers truly need and will respond positively to, ultimately creating meaningful change both in business communities and sectors.
BME PR Pros
While COVID-19 has taken the world by storm, the Black Lives Matter movement has also been top of mind for many in the industry. As organizations of every size began to commit to fairer hiring practices, BME PR Pro’s, a non-profit organization focused on promoting Black, Asian, and ethnic minorities in public relations and communications launched The BluePrint.
The BluePrint aims to help organizations attract, retain, and nurture diverse talent. With two levels of recognition (Blueprint or Ally) every organization that passes the board's review and is awarded the status confirms its commitment to removing inequality and barriers to progression.
Valid for 2 years at a time, the hope for BluePrint is to begin opening the conversation and making real, tangible change within communications.
To date, UK based firms Manifest, blurred and InFusion have been recognized for their commitment to equitable and progressive hiring
Pomp and Circumstance
As social distancing became the new way of living, Toronto agency Pomp and Circumstance put a challenge out to their team to find something they’d always wanted to do and use their newfound time off to make it happen.
Dubbed #solobucketlist, the concept aimed to keep inspiration flowing, promoted company culture, and encouraged them to find purpose within the turbulent times of COVID-19.
To date, employees have used the time to learn French, finish their first pilot script, and begin their long-anticipated novel.
Pomp has also created a bucket list bursary fund, which awards each team member $500 on their first work anniversary.
In June, leading integrated marketing agency Four Communications launched Place+, a data-driven service that would bring together the best of expert strategic consultancy and marketing services to provide a deeper understanding, analysis, execution, and evaluation for organizations involved in placemaking (i.e. the planning, designing and management of public spaces).
For tourism boards in the age of COVID-19, Places+ helps them look at the bigger picture beyond destination marketing. Combining insights from all areas including environment, commerce, development, tourism, government and culture, Places+ will provide clients with a more holistic approach to travel and to re-engaging communities once borders reopen.
Four Communications hopes that this service will become the new way to grow cities into destinations and create meaningful experiences for locals and travellers alike post-COVID-19.
Blue Door Communications
As for us, we leveraged our experience in government relations to spearhead a lobbying campaign in March at the outset of COVID-19. The lobbying initiative was made up of more than 50 restaurants, bars, alcohol brands and hotels and had the objective of taking an active role in the industry’s recovery. As one of the hardest-hit industries, our voice required a custom communications strategy and approach.
Blue Door partnered with Sussex Strategy, a leading government relations agency, to create a coalition of Toronto’s most esteemed hospitality groups to lobby the government to make special considerations for the needs of the industry.
Blue Door and Sussex began meeting with all levels of government including the Office of Small and Medium Enterprises, Small Business office, Canada Revenue Agency, Ministry of Finance, Prime Minister, Premier, and local Members of Parliaments to lobby for rent relief, HST relief, and wage subsidies for employees of the hospitality industry.
Over an intensive six-week timeframe, Blue Door and Sussex were part of the lobbying efforts that pushed through a 75% wage subsidy and created a rent relief program for the hospitality sector.
About the Author:
As a manager of the Public Relations team, Delia’s versatility as a communicator is a core strength that she brings to the workplace. A trusted advisor to clients on all areas of marketing and communications, Delia has worked with some of Blue Doors largest corporate brands, helping them scale on a national level.