Shooting Star was set up by me and my business partner Jez Ashberry in 2006 after we identified a gap in the market for a specialist PR agency in Lincolnshire.
Unfortunately, just two years later when the business was still in its infancy the UK went into the worst recession since the 1930s. This could have spelt disaster for the agency but thankfully we survived, and it is the lessons that we learned then that will help us endure this latest crisis and no doubt others to come.
When we first launched the business all those years ago our services were in high demand, particularly by the public sector which had previously had to look further afield for external PR support, and there was very little competition locally. However, at that time investing in PR was a relatively new concept for a lot of businesses so there were some barriers we still had to overcome. Despite this it had been relatively smooth sailing for the first few years and when the 2008 recession hit it came as quite a shock as we lost several of our key public sector clients who had to make significant cutbacks. Back then PR was often considered non-business critical, as it sometimes is now, and we soon learned not to put all our eggs in one basket but instead work across sectors to help spread any future risk.
Change is the only constant
On reflection it sounds like a simple lesson but at the time it was quite significant. Losing a chunk of business all at once can seem apocalyptic, but it was a valuable learning experience. Since then we have not only gained experience in a vast range of sectors but also expanded our services to include digital and marketing. Our staff also have a much wider skillset, having previously worked in PR, journalism, digital marketing and event management.
Admittedly Covid19 is different from anything else we’ve experienced and we’re all finding our way, but all bad things come to an end and now is the perfect time to plan for when we are able to return to some kind of normality. I am sure we have all learnt something from this experience and will hopefully be implementing some changes in our businesses as a result. Maybe you have realised the benefits of working from home and will offer more flexible working in the future; or conversely maybe you miss being in the office and have a new appreciation for your staff or work colleagues. With any luck you have also spotted some new business opportunities and been able to take advantage of these.
Video conferencing has also been a revelation and I predict we will be using technology such as Zoom and Google Hangouts more frequently in the future – although face-to-face interaction will still be encouraged whenever possible.
Communication is key
As a business we’ve been very fortunate as, although some clients have been forced to pause their contracts with us, we have a core group of clients in the healthcare, housing, education and business support sectors who’ve been just as busy if not busier than they were before coronavirus! But just as in 2008, this year will be a real struggle for some companies, particularly those in the hotel, hospitality and leisure industries who will sadly bear the brunt of further social distancing measures. Those who have maintained their marketing activity and kept communicating, both externally with stakeholders and internally with staff, will be in a much better position to bounce back. Even now in the midst of the pandemic we’re working with our clients to spread their positive news and start planning for the future. Yes, their circumstances have changed, but they have adapted and ultimately adapting to a new ‘normal’ is what we are all going to have to do. I am constantly asking myself how we can better serve our clients/employees, what can we do differently, how can we work smarter? I would advise you to do the same.