Kitchens, motorhomes and spare rooms – lockdown life at DTW

It has been a crazy ten weeks or so. Chris Taylor, DTW Managing Director, gives his take on life running an agency in lockdown.

Firstly, my heart goes out to everyone who has suffered or lost someone they care about to Covid-19 (or anything else) over recent months.

Secondly, I’m sure most people would join me in paying tribute to the amazing work done by NHS, social care and other frontline key workers. You’ve been awesome. Thank you.

Moving into the DTW world, we closed our office on Friday 13 March. Since then the team has been working remotely – some in spare rooms, at kitchen tables and even in motorhomes on the drive.

In all honesty, we thought we’d be away for a few weeks rather than several months. But it feels like lots has changed since 13 March.

A massive thank you to our team, our clients and our partners for everything you have done to work with us over the last ten weeks. We wouldn’t be where we are today without you.

Here’s a few takeaways from agency life in lockdown.

Content is still king

Everything has been urgent and important. Almost every piece of content or campaign that was planned back in January/February now feels like it’s from a different age or another planet.

Marketing and communications activity has often been leading the way as organisations re-adjusted to the world changing around them. Digital channels became even more important and we all had to learn a whole new Covid-19 language and apply it quickly.

The engagement levels for the campaign work we’ve been doing with fresh, relevant and appropriate content have increased. Turnaround times have been remarkable. People have responded to the challenge.

Talk to people. Even better, listen to them

Staff, clients, partners. Listen and understand their challenges and work with them. Video chats may not be perfect but with technology being updated constantly, they are becoming more and more effective. We’re making huge use of them. Keep your camera on for small group discussions. Eye contact is important.

Remember that people of all ages have faced very different personal choices and challenges over the past two months. From a leadership perspective, keep in touch so you understand what the problems are before you try to provide solutions.

Leadership matters

Whether it’s with colleagues, your family, your local community, or across your professional network. Communication, honesty and quick and clear decision-making are all important.

We shared our 12-week emergency plan with the team on 26 March. It was critical in showing the way forward and keeping us focused. We’re working on the plan for the next 12 months now we’ve had a chance to take stock and work out what the ‘new normal’ might look like.

Events, dear boy, events….

I don’t often quote Lenin, and certainly not in combination with Macmillan, but 101 years ago he said “There are decades where nothing happens, and then there are weeks where decades happen.” We’ve just been through some of them.

 The pace of events and change has been phenomenal. Just from a DTW perspective, we’ve been commissioned for major new projects, some clients have increased marketing investment – recognising that it’s a good time to get noticed if others are scaling back, and others have cut their investment while they work on their own emergency plans.

Whatever your plan is or was, you have to be nimble, flexible or agile (insert your own buzzword here). But stick to your principles and values and make sure your actions reflect your words.

We’ve furloughed a couple of members of staff who couldn’t work due to much lower demand for certain services.

The human impact for many people has of course been much more profound. You can’t forget that.

Be prepared for next time

Updating our business continuity plan over the years was never a task any of us looked forward to with much relish, but I’m glad we invested time and money in doing it. Covid-19 has pushed through major organisational changes around the world that would have taken years otherwise.

Similarly, any business needs some cash reserves. Your rainy day fund (note the irony of the best British spring weather ever) is there for a reason. This has been it.

Covid-19 has challenged us like never before but this preparation and planning meant our emergency 12-week plan was implemented almost immediately. Now we truly understand the importance of business continuity and expecting the unexpected. Preparation is key.

Look after yourself

You can’t take care of others if you’re silently drowning. Much more qualified people than me have given much better advice about the importance of looking after yourself. They’re all correct. The CIPR’s mental health resources are a great place to start if you’re looking for support.

Looking back, my stress level first peaked early on the morning of 12 March when reading about hospitals in Italy being overwhelmed, as I lay in bed with a cold. I was back there a couple of times that first fortnight in particular. Support from the team, friends and family and going on a daily bike ride with my amazing kids kept me sane.

So, what happens next?

In one way, nothing has changed. We carry on providing an important and valuable service for our clients, and I’ve never been prouder of the work our team delivers.

In every other way, almost everything has changed. We’re not all going back to the office any time soon. Working from home is working fine.

More importantly right now, it’s the best way we can contribute to keeping everybody as safe and well as we can and preventing a second wave.

Thanks for reading. Stay safe everyone. See you all on the other side.

Chris

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