Today We Are Comma is celebrating our second birthday! Another year has whizzed by so as is our custom, we are taking some time to reflect on the year.
Our biggest take away from this year is the importance of supporting one another. Last year we wrote about the importance of choosing clients carefully. This year we have been so grateful that we did and we want to give an especially big thank you to all our clients.
Support goes both ways so as well as the services we always provide for our clients, we try to go above and beyond to add extra value and when we can provide favours. We believe in what our clients are trying to achieve and usually have to rein ourselves in knowing there are only so many hours in a day – so we love it when we get a chance to go overboard for a client and do that bit extra.
So, what does the next year have in store for We Are Comma? We’ve got some exciting potential projects coming up with even more new clients – watch this space. We’ll continue to give our clients the excellent creative service they expect from us. In our last blog post we spoke about how the team has grown over the last year – so maybe we’ll grow the team again this year. We’ll definitely be sharing more on our social media channels so keep an eye out to see what we’re up to on our LinkedIn and Instagram accounts.
Who would you like to give a shout out for their support this year?
Surely one of the most annoying phrases to come out of the global pandemic has been the “new normal” and yet it is probably the best way to describe the situation. There are so many changes which would have been almost unimaginable in January. We’re all adjusting – who hasn’t forgotten their face mask and hand sanitiser at some point? Businesses, charities and other organisations are no different. How do you continue your marketing in such “unprecedented” (another fantastic coronavirus phrase) times? In the first of two articles, we share how to keep your organisation’s marketing on track at this time.
Don’t abandon your online community
If you read our post towards the beginning of lockdown on how to continue marketing during coronavirus pandemicyou will have seen that staying online was of vital importance. As more places begin to open up and life gets back to the familiar patterns of busy-ness it can be tempting to spend less time cultivating your online community but as with growing anything, you only get out what you put in. The less content you produce, the fewer people will see it and engage with it then the various social media channel algorithms will mean what you do produce is shown to even fewer people which means less interaction and so this vicious cycle continues. If you know that you won’t have time to dedicate to your online presence, make sure you delegate it to someone else in your organisation or outside of it, for example we devise, create and manage social media for a number of clients. We can also keep your website up to date with news as well as the behind the scenes updates too.
Don’t forget those who are still shielding
Keeping your online community alive is also vital for those customers who are still shielding or anxious about going out. Although the government says shielding has finished this is not always the case – especially for those on immune suppressants, receiving cancer treatment or with long term health conditions. As autumn turns to winter, we can expect more people to go back to shielding. Don’t forget these customers – they still want to buy, give and engage with the organisations and brands they love.
Let visitors know what to expect
Look at reopening your site(s) as an opportunity to talk about the new things that are happening, mention the innovations your organisation is leading, along with all the things your customers already love about what you do. Social media and your website are great places to let your stakeholders know what they can expect when they visit. You will already have new procedures in place for social distancing and staying ‘covid-19 secure’; make sure your visitors know this. For example, will visitors be able to use toilets? Is there a one-way system in place? What about track and trace? The more information you can give people the more confident they will feel about visiting. A frequently asked questions section on your website is a great place for all this information. Providing an email address or telephone number for any questions is also a good idea – providing they will be answered in a timely manner.
Expect the unexpected
These are uncertain times and we have to expect a fluctuation in restrictions. Given the government’s recent announcements about additional restrictions lasting at least the next six months, it’s a good idea to be prepared for further localised lockdowns and changes to daily life. Spend time planning how your business will deal with changes. Then when required, make sure you let your customers know what you are doing and what to expect. For example, if you are a small café now facing having to take orders at tables instead of counter service let your customers know how you will be doing this: remind them that tables will still socially distanced and that they need to wear a face mask upon entry until seated. Then once seated a colleague, wearing a face mask, will come to them to take their details for track and trace plus their order which will be delivered to them once ready etc. Or if you have an app for customers to use explain where to download it from and how to use it. ‘Explainer’ videos can be great for this. If you need support with creating video or any other content, we can help.
How has your marketing changed in the last six months? What plans have you got for your marketing in the next six months?
Today, We Are Comma turns one! What a year it has been; great highs and occasional disappointments. Starting a business is never easy but add in a global pandemic and there have been a number of challenges to overcome. We have learnt a lot in the last 12 months. So, we thought we would have a look back and share our experience.
When we started We Are Comma, we knew we had ample skills and experience to provide services which other organisations needed. We have a combined more than 30 years working in marketing, design, public relations and communications. So, in many ways we were ahead of many other businesses when they start. But there is more to running a business than simply being a good professional in your field. Very quickly we had to learn how to run a business. As employees, we had whole teams specialising in business administration to rely on; we didn’t need to know about the invoicing procedure or debt collection. Previously, when our team expanded HR colleagues provided advice on finding and hiring the best candidates etc. Suddenly, all these ‘back office’ services and systems were gone and we had to figure it out for ourselves. One of our first lessons was to ask other professionals for advice. Within our first week, we met with our accountant – who was recommended to us which is always the best way to find anyone to provide a service. Our accountant is experienced, knowledgeable and – importantly for us – very patient. He has spent a long time answering our questions about the best way to structure our business, what processes and procedures we need to have in place and so on. And to manage the day to day business admin, we each took responsibility for the various ‘back office’ functions.
Choose clients carefully
When you start a business there is a temptation to grab whatever work you can; anything to have some money coming in. Obviously having money coming in is very important but so is working with the right organisations. Our experience has been that the jobs which we thought would be a quick buck are not always so. More important is to work with clients that value your work and share a similar ethos to you. We work with organisations and businesses that change lives and drive social good. We help them influence more people to bring about more good in the world. However, we have also learnt another lesson through this: beware of getting carried away. As the purpose of the organisations we work for resonates with us, we can easily find ourselves doing lots of additional work as a good will gesture. But we do have to remember that there are only so many hours in the day. And our time is much more precious now that we are wearing so many hats.
Work life balance
From the start we all said we wanted to use the opportunity to start our own business to also ensure we have the work life balance that we want. We had great visions of being able to take every Friday afternoon off to pick the kids up from school and take them out for a treat or be able to meet friends for drinks etc. The reality is very different. Yes, we have more flexibility which given the Covid-19 pandemic has been greatly needed but actually we more often have to try and be strict with ourselves so that we are not working more than we did before. When you are building a business, it’s easy to think “just another hour on this” or find yourself spending the weekends trying to manage your own marketing because during the week you’re managing client’s marketing. But this has been another benefit of working as a collective – we can support each other but also challenge one another, if we notice any one of us seems to have got their work life balance off kilter.
That’s our top three lessons from starting We Are Comma. If you’ve started your own business what lessons did you learn? If you’d like to start your own business what do you think would be the biggest challenge?
The UK, and the world as a whole, is facing an unprecedent situation. Governments, healthcare professionals and scientists are still trying to figure out how to tackle Covid-19 and deal with its after affects. So it’s no surprise that many businesses are unsure of how to handle the situation. But there are ways to protect your business reputation during this time.
Hopefully you already have a business continuity plan in place. If you don’t, there are lots of places online which can provide a template for you to use. Some useful links and organisations are:
Business continuity plans often differ and there are various elements they may contain however some of the most important parts are:
Risk matrix: this helps a business see what scenarios could take place and then consider the likelihood. This then helps a business make sure they focus preparations on the most likely situations the business could face.
Potential scenarios: each business needs to take time with senior managers to brainstorm worst case scenarios, difficult scenarios and then less impactful issues which will affect business effectiveness but not require a shut down etc. These should then be RAG- rated. Though the BBC uses Gold, Silver and Bronze. The BBC has a great toolkit available here. This is where you need to add in the potential affects of coronavirus on your business. How will it affect your staff and customers? How will it affect the ability of your business to function?
Contact list: a vital part of your Business continuity plan is contact numbers. In an emergency everyone in leadership or vital roles need to be contactable. You should have your Business continuity plan team in place and they should all have their contact details on the form. Other organisations in your supply chain or partners you regularly work with are also useful to have on this list.
Checklist: This takes the person coordinating any event which interrupts business continuity through a list of things they need to do from building evacuation, calling emergency services, briefing staff etc depending on the situation. The checklist should be generic enough to be suitable for any emergency.
Activity log: This is vital, every detail of your business response must be recorded here. This document is vital and can be considered a legal document.
Evaluation and return to normal business: Once an emergency is over, your business needs to have a phased response to how the organisation returns to normal and then how the situation is evaluated to allow the business to avoid risk in future and/or better respond to emergencies.
Once you have created your business continuity plan make sure it is saved in multiple places in case of system failure. In addition, a hard copy needs to be available at every site your organisation operates from. Key members of staff need to know where it is so they can grab it in time of emergency. It’s also worth having other items like pen, pencil, spare mobile phone, torch and anything else you think you might need with it. These can be stored in a box file or bag.
Testing your Business continuity plan is vital. Tests can be run on desktops, talking through scenarios and response. It is ideal to have a real-time test scenario which involves all levels of staff at least once a year. Again, from these learnings the Business continuity plan should be updated. Your plan should be reviewed and updated at least once a year too.
The next step is to plan your communications. In an emergency situation you don’t want to be worrying about drafting statements to give to the media or other interested parties. Of course, emergency situations are fast moving and statements will need to change but you can certainly draft some statements, especially initial ones while you are establishing the facts of the situation, in advance. This helps put you on the front foot.
It is also useful to make sure you have someone who is responsible for the communications with different audiences – staff, customers, media, suppliers etc. This takes pressure off of the situation coordinator but the communications person should be working closely with them and the management team to make sure the right messages are getting out at the right time. If you don’t have someone you can trust to manage your business reputation, then make sure you know where to turn in a crisis. Even better, have support in place before you need it. Comma can give your business continuity plan a critical friend review and help with drafting your initial statements. We can also provide comms and media support in times of crisis, even setting up a temporary, mobile press office for your business if required.
Are you confident your business can weather any storm it faces? Do you have plans in place for dealing any negative effects of coronavirus?
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