We asked two of our PR Account Managers to go head to head on the questions that matter the most since the pandemic started a year ago. Both Alexandra Bullen and Mark Sheppard have given it their all to support their clients during this challenging time and were rewarded with promotions, showing how hard work and commitment pays off. Here’s what they had to say…
What’s changed about your role since March 2020?
Alex – The biggest change has been how I liaise with my clients and colleagues – gone are the days of spending hours in the car travelling to client meetings and instead everything is done virtually.
Mark – So much! We’ve found new ways of working through virtual client meetings and arranging virtual events. In terms of my own role, as a manager now it’s been nice to have the time at home to progress my own skills and re-evaluate the new methods of working in a way. What started as a negative thing will have some long-lasting positive effects for when we can get back to normal.
What’s stayed the same?
Alex – The ideas – just because the various restrictions may limit what we can do, it’s important to see everything as an opportunity and make sure we always have plenty of ideas!
Mark – There’s always a need to support the local community. Our clients make so many donations and offer support in various ways which, as a huge part of my role, it’s been amazing to help spread the message of how they’ve supported people, charities and organisations both directly and indirectly.
What do you know now that you didn’t before?
Alex – So much! I’m still learning every single day. I’d say the biggest thing I’ve learnt is how communicate with my clients without meeting in person. It sounds so simple but it’s definitely been the biggest change to my role since the pandemic.
Mark – I now know how many video call platforms there are! Definitely hadn’t used Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meets etc. before the pandemic but we’d be lost without them. I think if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s how quickly things can change, which has definitely kept us on our feet we’ve been required to adapt to a range of different situations – and even predict the next steps.
What’s kept you motivated?
Alex – Securing brilliant coverage for my lovely clients!!
Mark – The first Birra Moretti in a pub garden with my mates! So many things but just the fact that a sense of normality will resume at some point.
Most interesting project you’ve worked on?
Alex – I’ve really enjoyed working on a local community focused campaign for one of my clients, which has involved donating to numerous charities each month and it’s been lovely to support so many organisations during a time when fundraising is more difficult than ever!
Mark – One that springs to mind is a project I’m currently working on for a client in Leicestershire to commemorate the Whitwick Colliery Disaster of 1898. I’m from the county but I hadn’t heard of it before so it’s been an education for me. We’re also working on a couple of side-projects with the local schools to educate local pupils too.
What PR tools have you used the most/more now?
Alex – Definitely virtual meeting platforms such as Zoom or Teams and it’s brilliant that it’s allowed us to remain connected to our clients and colleagues.
Mark – Just making the most of the relationships we build on a daily basis. Over the past year, heart-warming stories involving people have been even more appreciated so just seeing that through from working with charities, schools and local communities to then pitching a press release to a journalist and seeing it in the media is rewarding.
How do you see PR evolving because of Covid?
Alex – I think PR is fast becoming a more digital tool and we have to find creative ways to tailor our content for different audiences using different platforms. It’s a shame that we’ve had to hold all in person events and networking too but this will pick back up once we’re able to do so.
Mark – It’s always important to think outside the box in PR and that’s even more significant now because we’ve had to alter how we work in so many ways. There’s a major focus on online content now and the majority of people have worked virtually for the past year, so I think that will remain and if anything, the pandemic probably brought an inevitable changed forward. That said, I think the importance of print media has been highlighted because it’s proven to be a valuable source of news for people during a difficult time.
What’s been the biggest impact on your clients’ business?
Alex – The housing market has seen huge growth since the pandemic but it has been a challenge to keep up with the demand, particularly when construction sites closed during the first lockdown. It’s really great though to see the industry thriving and it’s a testament to how it has adapted to new ways of working and assisting potential buyers.
Mark – The constant need to adapt has been most affected I’d say. With clients in the construction industry we’ve been fortunate they’ve been able to progress throughout the pandemic, especially whilst the housing market has continued to grow, which is a credit to how they’ve moved with the times. Simply assisting potential customers has changed massively by moving to appointments with intercom systems and strict social distancing measures in place, so it’s been great to see how they’ve adapted to help people find their new homes.
How has it changed you?
Alex – I’ve become much better at problem solving. In the office I’d typically turn around and ask a colleague if I was unsure on something but now, I take time to think logically and resolve any problems I may come across.
Mark – Just having to think about things a lot more when planning everything. There are more steps to take but it’s all worth it to make sure everything is done efficiently. I’ve always been quite independent so working from home has suited me!