Mind Your Business

Date: 6 May, 2020

Partners in a Pandemic

Aoife O’Shea

By Aoife O’Shea

Account Director

The first Monday in our new WFH environment felt like a bit of a novelty. We logged on and went about our daily schedule. It became apparent that even though we were home, our response to clients needed to be quicker and more nimble than ever. Whatever idealistic vision of working from home that I had – endless cups of tea, making sure I was always caught up on my washing – soon went out the window!

Week one was somewhat of a scramble. We were brainstorming, predicting, ideating, trying to decide exactly what our clients should be doing. Should they be changing? Should they even be active? One thing became crystal clear – we were deliberating and questioning things in less microscopic detail, and leaning on each other to push forward more. Together with some clients, we gained the confidence to have brand presence sooner. I remember thinking that 16-year-old Aoife’s theme song was never more prevalent – ‘We’re All In This Together!’ from High School Musical… This was definitely helped by the fact that I had a brand new subscription to Disney+ and my first weekend in quarantine was spent re-watching the entire High School Musical trilogy.

We were staring down the barrel of uncertainty. The truth is, in the first days no one knew what to say, but we knew that brands had an obligation to communicate with their customers. We regrouped really quickly and got some excellent thinking together to bring to our clients. Giving them clarity in these uncertain times. We took more and more challenges on board and overall we shifted from client & agency to solving these challenges as a collective. We were now at almost every virtual board meeting. Thankfully, we didn’t need the attire to match and got away easy in our active wear (I have the fear on a weekly basis about putting on a pair of jeans again).

It’s so interesting how not only our environments have changed, but our whole way of working has shifted too. We usually live in our emails; everything is documented, everything is timestamped. But this new way has brought a different opportunity for us to interact with our clients, where we’re talking constantly and, oddly enough, getting even more ‘face time’ with our partners. This has only led to deeper understanding of each other, which is one huge positive of the this experience, and one I hope continues given that it’s forged deeper relationships and understanding of each other.

It hasn’t always been easy, for any of us. There have been late calls, disagreements and often extremely awkward silences in conference calls. But overall, an obligation to our clients to help them navigate these uncharted waters has prevailed. For me, even seven weeks in, we have some great learnings and outcomes that will only lead to better relationships and, in turn, better work for the future;

1. More than ever we are our clients’ partners. We have gone really deep with our clients’ businesses, and been exposed to new areas of the business. This has furthered our understanding of what our clients need and the challenges they face on a daily basis.

2. We have enjoyed more face time with our clients, which has helped move work faster, get more done and deliver great thinking. Given this, going forward some of the emails received on a daily basis could become conversations instead, with both our clients and each other.

3. In addition to the relationships with our clients being stronger than ever, as an agency we have also grown closer. Our conversations are more in depth than ever before, we are understanding each other more, we are taking more time to chat to one another – rather than rushing to the next meeting room, or grabbing 2 minutes to chat whilst en route for a coffee. Better internal relationships will also only lead to better work.

When we come through this pandemic, in addition to my house being more organised than ever, I’m excited to see all of the (even) great(er) work that comes with these new deeper relationships.