COVID-19 Reflection

06 July 2020

COVID-19 Reflection

Our approach to the 'new normal' we find ourselves in...

Coming out the other side…

As the government guidelines relax ever so slightly more, we at Third Floor are putting plans in place to come back into the studio. However, the new normal isn’t easy when half of our team are parents, as I’m sure many of you are too, who are required to take on the role of a teacher as well as their employment responsibilities. So what is our plan going forward?

We made the business decision to trial lockdown circumstances a week before the lockdown was officially announced, and were impressed by our ability to adapt to the change in working life. As a business who work predominantly digitally, we are very fortunate to be able to unplug and relocate at short notice. The biggest change for us was not being surrounded by fellow creatives to bounce our ideas off, but on the other hand, this has meant we have had the space to knuckle down and focus, so productivity has been at an ultimate high.

This by no means reduces our ability to communicate as a team, though. A recent survey showed that team communications have improved by 59% during the pandemic. We’ve also saved on clogging up our emails through using a chat platform called Teamwork – handy for sharing large files with the project team and reviewing creative development. As well as this, we have used video conferencing to allow us to have virtual team and client meetings. The question is…

What’s your choice of video conferencing platform?

As an agency who have always believed in face-to-face interaction, both internally and externally, we wanted to recreate a seamless experience for meetings where possible. It’s inevitable someone’s wifi will always cut out and you’ll get a funny freeze-frame of them mid-conversation, but we have found Zoom is the best platform for high-quality video calls. We use Zoom frequently for team briefings and client presentations, as the screen share function is much less glitchy than other platforms.

We’ve also found Zoom great for our team quizzes and virtual birthday parties – a great way to socialise as a team and enjoy some time together aside from the working day. And an extra benefit is we can all have a drink, as none of us has to drive home after!

Zoom is something we are very much incorporating into our return to work plan, as we have realised the benefit this also has on reducing travel time to meetings. We love client visits and certainly won’t stop this altogether, but the lockdown has made us reflect on the time external meetings take out of ours and our client’s days to attend.


Supporting other creatives agencies…

A few weeks into lockdown, our Brand Director, James Cowdale, held a creative Zoom call with agency owners and fellow creatives across the county. The aim of this was to offer a friendly face and discuss what each of us has learnt so far from the implications of the pandemic. It was a great session, full of insightful discussions and one that emphasises the camaraderie between creative agencies. Although we are in a competitive landscape with the economic effects of the current circumstances, we all need to look out for each other, like we do our friends – check in with them, offer your knowledge, and help to keep others motivated through this difficult time. The relationships we built on this call are ones we hope to continue long after lockdown.

The ‘F’ words – Furlough, flexibility and finances…

Just like the majority of businesses our there, we have been very grateful for the government furlough scheme when experiencing a reduced workload a couple of months in. We have reviewed our workload and finances on a weekly, if not daily, basis throughout COVID-19, as the situation changes so quickly in this climate.

We have had to remain agile. As a small business, this is something we are very good at and thankfully have the resources for. With everyone being in the same boat, scheduling calls around child care quickly became a common factor, with many small children appearing with their paint-covered fingers dangerously close to their parents’ laptop on several occasions. This by no means felt unprofessional though, as has become a part of this ‘new normal’ and is something we can empathise with and laugh along at with clients. A study shows 58% of agencies have classed themselves as becoming more flexible in this time and that is something I believe we have embraced at Third Floor.

One of the first considerations we had to make as a business was our outgoing costs. This was a very difficult discussion on any occasions as we have been working with external partners for many years and treasure their skills. However, this proved a great opportunity for us as a team to up-skill and learn something new. We see strength in doing what we do very well and don’t claim to be good at everything (which is why we have our partners), but we have been part of the 29% of agencies able to take quiet moments and time on furlough to expand our knowledge of the industry or teach ourselves new skills that we can bring into projects.

The impact of COVID-19 on growth

Are businesses using this time to improve their brand and digital presence, to define their values and stay in touch with the world? Or are they pausing all brand and marketing activity to prioritise their focus on survival?

Every business has thrived or felt the consequences of the impacts of COVID-19 at one time of another, and we have seen this with the client, as well as experienced both sides. The technology, e-commerce and healthcare industries have excelled during this time, understandably. In contrast, it has sadly been a challenging time for the retail, travel and leisure industries. As a full-service agency, we have been able to help retailers, who are normally only available offline, get online through the likes of Shopify, to allow them to continue to sell and keep going.

One of our clients, GKA, are a medical market research company, so have been very reactive to the current situation. We were commissioned by them to produce an infographic, which was very well received, on the industry response to COVID-19. This is a creative way for people to educate themselves, which, as previously mentioned, is something many have taken this time to do, and shares their insight into the situation.

Productivity

The lockdown period has been a great time to review internal processes, to be efficient as a team and with clients. We have enjoyed the challenges we have faced with home working and feel we have grown as a team. Our design process and strategic approach still remain the same, as these have been developed and improved over the 16 years Third Floor has been running, and have in fact proved very strong throughout the working from home period. We have made adaptations to our communication channels, for example, our social media approach and internal comms, to maximise the resources we have available to us and to keep us well connected whilst working from home.

Our client VoCoVo offers a great solution for improving productivity, as many of you will have witnessed on your essential shopping trips in the likes of Tesco and ASDA, as they empower the retail environment through their voice communication technology. You may have noticed shop security, team leaders, shelf stackers and checkout staff wearing the VoCoVo headset? In a time where social distancing is paramount and flour is a commodity, their technology makes the retail experience dynamic and effortless for teams and customers. 

What do we recommend?

Stay active – both physically and online. The wellbeing of our team and clients has been a core focus at the time. None of us have ever been through anything like this before and working in an isolated environment away from the usual buzz and bustle of a working environment can get to the best of us at times. We have been actively checking in with previous and existing clients to ensure they are keeping safe and well, as well as our team on a daily basis.

Email marketing – there has been a 15% increase in the use of email marketing since the lockdown began. This is a service we have offered for a long time at Third Floor, but isn’t one that has been utilised enough until now. Email marketing is something that is very accessible to companies big and small through the template options on MailChimp or Campaign Monitor, so is something we highly recommend exploring to keep contacts updated as we edge back to normality.

Be open and honest – everyone is in the same boat and we can all appreciate what we are going through. We have always been very transparent with clients, as want to ensure we are well-suited and understand each other, however, this is something that becomes a grey area when it comes to finances. Everyone has overheads to cover and mouths to feed at the end of the day, so being open about budgets and spending will make it much easier for both parties to assess whether the relationship is feasible for their business going forward.

Only adapt where possible – be responsive to what is going on around you, but with caution. Know the value in what you do but be empathetic to the economic impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on everyone. Sometimes a small gesture will get you a long way, but don’t feel the need to re-evaluate what you stand for. As a branding agency, we build brands to have purpose and credibility, so maintain these best possible through these trying times and you will come out of this stronger the other side.