‘Oh mate, you sound preeetty stressed.’
That’s what a friend of mine said when they listened to the last episode of PR in a Car, recorded and released in May. I didn’t much like that I’d sounded that way. I was, as ever, just trying to be honest about what it was like to run a business, especially in and around marketing, at that point in time.
Episode 11 of the #PRinaCar podcast is live, and all about how the world of PR – for us and others – has changed in the last 2 months, and how we're moving forward.
Come for the 'um's, stay for the 'you know's.
Watch >> https://t.co/rKhacu9HK5
Listen >> https://t.co/4MtVXUZQbK pic.twitter.com/EEIW8WklRu
— Rich Leigh (@RichLeighPR) May 22, 2020
That’s almost 2 months ago.
We were on track for our second straight unprofitable month – our second ever, in fact, in more than five and a half years.
I’m a saver, and was grateful to younger me for being very margin-conscious for the first few years, which meant we had a buffer we could eat into. But every business buffer is finite. The furloughing grants were much appreciated.
Add to that three kids, another business in the Radioactive Group that still needed my time, some close family issues made all the more difficult during lockdown (something many of you will have doubtless experienced and felt helpless to do much about), staff on furlough and a particularly pesky voice in my head saying ‘well, you could just try harder, you bumbling waste of hairspray’.
Yeah, maybe I was a bit stressed.
A few short weeks later though, and I tweeted this.
Feeling some real positivity returning on the new business front in the last week or two. Not just that there are out-of-the-blue enquiries again, but the tone of them seems more akin to the before times, even if it’s skewing project vs retained. Others feeling similar?
— Rich Leigh (@RichLeighPR) June 12, 2020
We were just doing what needed doing. The team were doing a great job of maintaining the quality of work and results for current clients who were being fantastically supportive in their own ways, and I was doing my best on the new business front, while maintaining agency oversight.
The team members that were furloughed did their best to stay positive and socially involved, and I just tried to be honest with everybody throughout, especially once over the initial hit of the first few weeks of lockdown. Never overpromising, but I’d hope giving empathetic clarity during an uncertain time for us all.
And then, around the time of that last tweet, clients that had paused slowly began to and continue to return, months after ~50%+ of retained work had gone on hold; in most cases entirely understandably.
New business enquiries had and have picked up, albeit nearly all project vs. retained and, more recently, a partnership I’ve put a lot of time and energy into for the best part of a year has started to come good.
To the point where we’ve hired again, and might well need to again very soon – especially if you’re somebody that thinks of yourself as especially digital PR-savvy (more on that at the end!)
If you’d asked me even a month ago, I wouldn’t have said we’d be growing anytime soon. I’ve watched and been so impressed as agencies have done so, including some agencies that have bravely launched during lockdown. I feel fortunate that we’re up and moving in the right direction again, and am desperate not to take it for granted. Growth in and of itself leads to other issues to deal with.
That said, we would do well to remember that the industry has always been a supportive one. I loved PR Twitter when I was first starting out, and have made more friends and even been introduced to conflict client opportunities by seeing everybody in PR as part of a community as opposed to a group of people to compete with (other than at pitch time), ignore or, worse, dick over.
Give your geographic and kindred neighbours a shout, ask how they’re getting on and, to the very few agencies I’ve heard doing this: stop trying to pick over the bones of those you’ve heard might be having a tough time, offering to undercut and overdeliver. I get that it’s not all been roses, but come on.
Oh yeah, HIRING
Right, digital PR* types, reveal yourselves!
Anticipating further growth, I’d like to hear from you if you are in the first stages of your career, whether you’re just starting out or already have some experience under your belt.
If you’re Gloucestershire-based, amazing – if not, still get in touch. If there’s one thing we’re all equipped well for now, it’s remote working, right?
There’s a good chance we’ll need to be hiring at an exec and manager level in the coming weeks.
Email me firstname.lastname@example.org with a bit about you, your CV and all that jazz
*Digital PR is a term I begrudgingly now use to say ‘hey, if you know a bit about getting client results that include building links and how that aids client SEO as part of a broader strategy, I mean you’, like a grumpy octogenarian complaining about the evolution of language. Many of us have been building links for more than a decade as a tactic, and stop it with the journohacks, for the love of all things holy. Also, while I’m at it, reactive PR is NOT NEW (god, this is like therapy). This is my ridiculous hill to die on, and it hasn’t changed no matter how many times digital PR has shifted meaning on the basis of tactics, this being the third time since I’ve been in PR – DIGITAL PR IS PR DIGITAL PR IS PR DIGITAL PR IS PR DIGITARGHHHHHHH