Aira and COVID-19: Our Clients, Our Team and The Future

I was a bit reluctant to write this post because there is a lot of information and noise out there already. The truth is, no one knows what is really going on right now and things are still very uncertain. Adding my small voice to that didn’t feel very valuable, so this post started out as an internal email for our team and our clients. 

After finishing it, I decided to post it publicly because if it helps just one person outside of Aira in some way, then I’m good with that. 

What is Aira doing

In summary, we’ve lost some clients, have had others pause and others who were due to kick-off this week, cancel. It’s shit, but we’re ok. 

Edit; as I was drafting this, another client paused. 

As of Monday 16th, we went fully remote as a company. Luckily, we were able to make this transition quite quickly given that we all use laptops and Gsuite which makes the logistics straightforward. Adapting to working remotely has been easier for some than others and depends on a bunch of different things, but generally, the week has been quite smooth.

We’re using a combination of Slack calls and Google Hangouts for internal meetings, whilst using Zoom for larger internal meetings and client calls. 

The team also have an additional pot of budget which they can use to “spruce up” their working from home situation. Suggestions so far range from a new desk, office chair, back support and a lifesize cutout of me. 

I’m rejecting all requests for the latter.

Our regular sessions with Sanctus are going ahead via Zoom which I’m super happy about. Now is a testing time and our collective mental health is taking a bashing. This is particularly prevalent in the digital industry because we’re “always-on” and are being hit pretty much 24/7 with negative news. So ensuring that you’re taking time to look after your mental health right now is more important than ever. Take a look at this post by Sanctus on the topic. 

We’re also posting more gifs than ever in Slack. 

What we’re doing for clients

In summary, doing a great job and going above and beyond to be there for them.

This is a tough time right now and not only are clients trying to assess the situation and figure out what to do, but they are also doing so with the backdrop of this having an impact on their personal lives too. All of us are directly affected by what’s going on and this is worse for some than others. 

Remember that clients aren’t just trying to talk to you and figure stuff out, they are also potentially supporting a partner whose job may be gone or their kid who is now off school or a relative who is in a vulnerable risk group. 

At the same time, there is still work to be done and help that we can provide. So we’re doing our absolute best to support them and guide them in the right direction. For many clients, this means adapting the work that we already had planned but not stopping it.

If marketing work can continue, it absolutely should because the investment will be paid back when we get some degree of normality.

What companies should be doing

In all honesty, none of us knows for sure. This situation is unprecedented and part of the reason I’ve avoided sharing much so far is that I think there is a lot of baseless advice being given out. If I share something, I want it to be honest and not misleading or guessing. It’s also heavily dependent on so many factors, that generic advice is hard to follow. 

So instead, let’s all just be honest about things – no one has a bloody clue what the next few weeks or months hold. 

Good, that’s out the way. So what should we do?

Put simply, what can you do which falls into one or more of the following areas:

  • Do some good for your customers, staff or your community
  • Map out what will and won’t change with your industry and customers
  • What can you do which you know isn’t wrong

Do some good for your customers, staff or your community

If you’re in a position where your company can make a gesture to your customers, your staff or your community, do it. Many are worried about being seen as opportunistic in the current situation, which I understand and it’s a shame that many are holding back because of the potential fallout. 

Gestures like these from Pret and Brewdog probably have genuinely good intentions behind them, yet have been met with some negativity. But a lot of people are angry right now. To make things harder, they can’t be angry at a thing or person, so are likely to lash out at something

Companies who can do some good right now will not only be helping people, but gestures to your customers and staff will inspire loyalty at a time when it’s sorely needed for companies to get through things. 

Map out what will and won’t change with your industry and customers

We don’t know when, but things will bounce back. We may need to adjust what “normal” is once things have settled down, but things will come back in some form or another. Perhaps we will all realise that remote working is the new normal, perhaps the airline industry will look very different or all of us will continue to wash our hands 100 times a day. 

Either way, things will come back and no doubt, be different somehow. 

Companies who can endure and accept this are in the best position to take the opportunity when it comes. 

The question becomes, what never changes? What will your customers want in the new normal which you can invest in now? The answer differs from the company to company of course but if you can answer this, then you should still be investing in these areas if you can. A few things to think about here:

  • How can you invest in the experience customers get from you? 
  • How can you make your website more robust?
  • What content can you create now which your customers will need later?
  • What relationships should you continue to develop to try and connect with customers?

Then the flip side of this question is: what will change now?

We will get back to some sense of normality at some point, what will we all have learned in the process and how will that change how we behave toward brands? A few things to think about here:

  • How will the expectations of your customers change in a world that has been shown that it can function virtually?
  • What will people discover now which they may actually like to keep in the future? Such as working from home or workouts in their bedroom or garden?
  • What technology or platforms will become commonplace? 

You get the idea…

Companies who can think about these things and importantly, dedicate at least some resource to them will be in a much better position on the other side of all of this. 

What can you do which you know isn’t wrong

Leading on from understanding the things which won’t change, companies need to think about what activities they can do now which, categorically, will not be the wrong things to invest into.

If you can identify these things, you can safely spend time on them now, knowing that they will pay dividends in the future. I was speaking to a client in the travel industry who is taking the opportunity to build out some technology which has been on hold for a while but now has the chance to breathe. The technology relates to developing CMS capabilities which, no matter what, will be useful in the future. They know that this isn’t wrong. 

Here are a few examples related to your channels:

  • SEO – you’re always going to need indexable, fast, readable content
  • Digital PR – you’re always going to need genuine, strong relationships with key people who can help you connect with your customers
  • Paid media – you’re always going to need a consistent level of relevant, paid traffic to support peaks and troughs in other organic channels
  • Content – you’re always going to need content which is genuinely useful, informative and expertly produced
  • Email – you’re always going to need an engaged, active list of customers

To give you a concrete example from Amazon – who is not going to want low prices, personalisation and fast delivery? No one – which is why they’ve always focused relentlessly on these areas. 

Where we go from here

As mentioned above, no one knows how long this situation will last for or what normal will look like when all is said and done. But in the meantime, all we can do is the best we can with the information we have. I’m thankful for my co-founder and the team we’ve built because they are taking all of this in their stride and doing everything they can for our clients. 

In the meantime, stay safe, stay healthy, and be kind to each other. We need it now more than ever. 

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