“Big, flash campaigns might be few and far between” - Jenny Mowat, Managing Director - Babel PR

Jenny quickly realised the power of virtual events. She tells PR in Lockdown how she developed new services for Babel’s client-base and managed her 20-strong team, including slack-free Mondays, time for tea sessions, and a virtual mind reader...

“We were so genuinely interested in their health and wellbeing beyond productivity”

On what Jenny’s priority was going into lockdown: “it was obviously the team… Even about 10 days before lockdown, we already had the majority of the team working from home. Being based in central London means we’re aware that everyone’s using public transport to travel to work, so we really needed to make sure we reduced those risks early on.”

“Connectivity and face-time is something we all benefit from being in the office environment, so mirroring that virtually was important. It sounds a bit arduous, but we put in twice-daily all-hands calls, but with quite specific agendas. In the morning we were highlighting our crunch points and anything we needed to announce across the business. At the end of the day, we discussed what our successes were, to make sure we were connecting as a team.”

“Individual wellbeing was very front of mind, there was an importance to having those regular checkpoints as a team. We put in things like ‘time for tea,’ which are little slots across the week where people can join the slack channel and start a call. It was very much not work chat, in the aim to offer people an outlet to have a general chat. The feedback was that our employees welcomed the fact that we were so genuinely interested in their health and wellbeing beyond productivity.”

“We did a few quizzes, like everyone. We wanted to think of something else. One of the team suggested something from a wedding they had been to. This celebrity mind reader had come and done a session. Their whole thing is predicting what decisions you’re going to make such as, what would be the first musical theatre show you’d see? And the mind reader would guess our answers and would get them spot on.”

“We were able to adapt quite quickly for clients”

“It was a tricky time, particularly in the first few months. There was a lot of flexing budgets and proportioning some for later in the year. But overall it’s actually starting to look really positive now, particularly on the new business front. We were able to adapt quite quickly for clients, particularly on the virtual events side, in order to ensure that the revenue kept coming through.”

“On the media front, we all love hosting round tables and press conferences - very quickly it was clear that these weren’t going to happen. When we were taking them online, we wanted to make it different. On the Thursday afternoon, before the Friday bank holiday, we sent out a series of craft beers and soft drinks to some of the media to try and entice them to chat with our clients on Zoom. We also pulled together a virtual webinar for our customers to attend and created a supporting white paper guide on everything you need to know about virtual events.”

“People are looking for more written responses which they will review and return back to with questions”

“At first, we were concerned and then things started to come through. Initially, pitches just stopped. But then they all started to trickle back through and actually, there were some pretty meaty RFPs that came our way. A few weeks back I did a little analysis of what opportunities had come through compared to last year and it was actually quite reassuring to see that overall, it was the same number and if not, I think there were about four more opportunities.”

“The thing that shifted though, is that people are looking for more written responses which they will review and come back with questions. I love pitching, you’re able to adapt what you’re saying on the spot, so my concern is how that progresses through post lockdown.”

“We’ve had quite a few companies come to us who are looking to push for some more funding. That’s lots of corporate profiling, maybe a big launch announcement or, some kind of big creative to go with that. A lot of businesses are also looking to form a long term relationship with an agency at the moment, to really help them ride through this period. That could be everything from media relations and content development, but also a lot of content marketing and social media services.”

“We’d already seen, pre-pandemic, that companies were wanting to test the water before committing”

“There are two key areas here. First is that initial nervousness about big-budget commitments, we definitely saw people drawing back from big campaigns and not knowing when to launch them. I don’t see that going away any time soon.”

“We’d already seen, pre-pandemic, that companies were wanting to test the water before committing with a three/four-month projects. Sixty per cent of opportunities were projects, but actually, the conversion rates to full retainer are good. But that opportunity to see a continued drumbeat of brand awareness being raised is the true benefit of a retained relationship. That’s something I want to push towards and look to for our incoming inquiries.”

PR in Lockdown is a podcast series produced by Access Studios in collaboration with the PRCA. It is available on YouTube and all major podcast libraries.