A YOURS . SINCERELY virtual panel discussion

The impact of this year’s unprecedented events on the marketing and PR world has been huge and marketers across the UK, and the world, have been forced to rip up their marketing plans for the year and spin on a dime.

As a marketing and comms agency, understanding what good looks like in the ‘new normal’ is essential to our day-to-day – but the landscape has changed, and a lot of the previous wisdom about what works is no longer valid. 

In an effort to explore this, we were delighted to host a selection of industry-leading experts; Be, founder at Futureheads Recruitment, Ash, founder at Yena and Rowena, Senior Digital Marketing Manager at Good Energy, for a virtual panel discussion to try and better understand what good looks like in the new marketing landscape and tips to survive and even thrive through this challenging time. 

If you were unable to join, don’t worry! We’ve gathered some key takeaways from the panellists’ contributions below. 

Engage and be transparent  

Be-Kaler Pilgrim, founder at Futureheads Recruitment 

Charting Futureheads’ journey from the first day of lockdown to today, Be took the audience through the four stages which have defined this period for Futureheads : Discover, Respond, Recover and Thrive. 

As a digital recruitment business, Futureheads was significantly (and almost instantly) impacted by lockdown restrictions, with business levels measuring 30% on Day One of lockdown. However, through a series of strategic decisions, Futureheads was able to navigate the uncertainty – with a rewritten marketing plan playing a huge role.

In the initial response stage, Be spoke about their various marketing initiatives they developed with YOURS . SINCERELY to maintain engagement with their audience. From a transparent letter from their MD to an #AskUsAnything social campaign, drop-in clinics and an industry barometer survey, their action plan was to offer consultancy with empathy to their clients and candidates. 

On the event side too, they adapted their plan, running a series of roundtables targeted to candidates wanting to upskill and clients evaluating the skills gaps within their digital teams. Their content marketing was also amplified – sharing interviews on how business leaders had pivoted during lockdown and practical recruitment advice for new remote work settings. 

Measuring recovery, Be said, was all about temperature checks with their team, client base and audience. How they measured recovery in terms of the business was fluid, but two key metrics stood out: how many new jobs they were getting and their fill rate. On the marketing side, driving engagement and over-communication was highly successful, delivering an increase in LinkedIn impressions of 27% and an exceptionally high newsletter open rate of 38%. 

Be finished with some key lessons. Joking that she had learnt what not to do from the government, these were: 

  • Be transparent 
  • Give your time
  • Show up to meetings and be present
  • Have a strong marketing partner 

The impact of Covid-19 called for Futureheads to totally re-examine their marketing strategy, and Be told the audience, a marketing partner was highly valuable in this process. 

Be human and make sure you do the right thing 

Ash Phillips, Founder at Yena

Ash followed the discussion with a Q&A. As founder of Yena – a global network of Entrepreneurs with a mission to democratise entrepreneurship – Ash said the period had highlighted the need for their service more. Determined to do the right thing in the face of a global crisis, Yena wanted to bring the barriers down for all members, so decided to make membership free and run sim-style virtual meetings. 

Ash said a key trend to arise from the situation was the borderless business opportunities – a result of Zoom calls became the norm and no longer being considered an inferior alternative to a meeting in a big conference room. He said this had been key to democratising business on whole, enabling big deals to be agreed on a Zoom call. 

In terms of switching up their marketing, Ash referred back to his free membership initiatives and emphasised the importance of being genuine and always making sure Yena was doing the right thing. 

“Whether it costs money or not, people will remember how your brand reacts during this time,” he concluded. 

Digital marketing in covid: From acquisition to awareness and engagement 

Rowena Malpass, Senior Marketing Manager at Good Energy

Last to speak, Rowena gave the audience a 101 in how to deal with the unexpected task of ripping up your marketing strategy and starting again following a global pandemic. 

Interestingly, like Ash, Rowena spoke about how these times have emphasised the importance of building an authentic brand that would be remembered.  

After a year of testing and learning, 2020 was set to be a big year for Good Energy. The plan was to strengthen their brand and message by significantly increasing spend on dedicated campaigns, events and festivals, as well as capitalising on partnerships and moving into the influencer space. 

Overnight, however, everything changed. 

Events started to look really unlikely and the main focuses of their campaigns were no longer relevant in a world hit by a global pandemic. Rowena and her team had to rip up their 2020 marketing plan and fundamentally change their strategy.

But what was their voice in this new world? 

They wanted to be relevant, useful and responsive to the communities they served, but they weren’t exactly sure what this looked like. Their goal had always been acquisition, but with concerns for cash flow as customers struggled to pay their bills, they had little choice but to pull back spend, and heavily re-tailor their messaging from acquisition to engagement and awareness.

Rising to the challenge of a new direction

It was vital they continued to take users through a journey with the end goal to convert Good Energy, but with less emphasis on acquisition messaging, this would not be easy. Instead, they wanted to be remembered as a brand who delivered during the crisis. 

As a business fighting the climate crisis, they realised their role was to be a relief of people’s timelines – telling positive stories without being insensitive, as well as shining a light on Good Energy’s story.

How did they achieve this? 

Firstly, content had to be less precious. This meant recycling old content and looking to leverage other assets in the business. Rowena informed the audience a video interview with their founder – a significant figure in the green space – was their best performing piece of content, alongside sharing content that reminded their followers of their manifesto and mission. In the old world, this strategy would have been unlikely, but the lockdown restrictions gave their team time to re-think their methods and the results were unexpected: 

  • Engagement grew by a huge 760%, with videos delivering clickthrough rates of 12%, and there was a 319% uplift in people sharing ads. 

Rowena concluded that switching off ads completely in this period would have been a mistake. This was a time people were able to pause and think about what brands they are aligning themselves with. She said it was vital that their team listened and paid attention to their customer’s behaviours, and most importantly, stayed useful and relevant – this is what people will remember. 

Conclusions

Overall, the three panellists offered some invaluable lessons they’d learnt from the last few months, but a key theme was present in all contributions: the importance of authenticity. 

For Be, this meant being transparent and giving Futureheads’ time to help their community. For Ash, he spoke about the need to be genuine and always make sure his business was doing the right thing. Similarly, Rowena emphasised the need to stay useful and relevant – you want to position yourself as a brand customers want to align themselves with. People have long memories and how you act in a crisis will always be remembered, she said. 

Overall, the roundtable was a fantastic success and we’re delighted to have received such positive feedback from those who joined. Thank you to Be, Ash and Rowena for sharing their expertise.

We hope to be back with another in the future – watch this space!