Like many of you, I’ve just finished my fourth week of remote working. A few months ago, I’d heard of COVID-19, but I’d never have thought in a million years that our world would be turned upside down by it just a few weeks later and with no light at the end of the tunnel quite yet. Yes, each day does feel a bit like Groundhog Day (work, eat, sleep, bit of exercise, repeat) but let’s face it, it’s a small price to pay at the moment and I’ve certainly got it easy compared to some.
In this new world we find ourselves in, I thought it would be an idea to put down some thoughts that I hope you can relate to, as we adjust to this strange new (and, we hope, temporary) reality.
#1 We are adapters
Despite huge challenges, we’re a nation of adapters. Businesses that otherwise would have closed their doors permanently are finding new and innovative ways to serve their communities, keep their workforce going and bring in some much-needed revenue. Whether it’s fresh grocery boxes from your local Italian restaurant or gin distillers switching to making hand sanitisers, everyone’s really thinking outside the box.
Those who are currently furloughed are also finding other ways to help. I read only yesterday of the British Airways pilot who’s now a delivery driver for Tesco while all of their planes are grounded.
COVID-19 inadvertently may have created the next wave of innovators and school marketers are no different. We’ll all be adapting to not having open days and finding other resourceful ways to keep our admissions pipeline running, as well as managing our school communications with precision accuracy, as well as with a new-found sensitivity.
#2 Time to reflect
For me, COVID-19 has given me a chance to take stock, both personally and professionally. Personally, this crisis has really made me value the small things that I’ve taken for granted. I really don’t need that ‘must have’ new dress I saw in Grazia last week, I’m finding new ways to cook with store cupboard ingredients I never knew I had and sometimes the simple things really are the best. We’ve also set up a family Whatsapp Group (nothing new, but my family have been very resistant!) and I’ve probably seen my friends more now (although, virtually) than I have ‘in person’ during 2019. Long may these changes last.
Professionally, COVID-19 has not been without its difficulties and I’m sure many of you will agree that the next few months will probably stack up to be one of the biggest professional challenges of our careers. We know we’re in the very fortunate position to not be on the front-line of this crisis (and we thank all those amazing people that are) but we’re still concerned about whether things will ever return to normal. We still don’t know the answers. But what I can tell you is that with challenges comes learnings and if you’re lucky, a few those ‘lightbulb moments’ that you just don’t have time to dream up under normal circumstances.
#3 Technology is our friend (most of the time)
Given Ambleglow has a healthy client base of over 600 schools and businesses, and juggles over 7,000 jobs a year, it makes sense to have the majority of our workforce in the office. Of course, some of us have worked remotely on occasions and we’ve been home-based on the odd snow day, but it’s never really been a ‘thing’ for us. That all changed when we knew COVID-19 was getting more serious and within 24 hours (and with some help from our IT company), we had everyone working at home.
Technology really has been our friend and has enabled us to keep it business as usual for our clients. We’re now logging into Zoom for our daily workflow meetings, recording videos on Loom for clients and debating whether to start using Slack. The technology is out there and it’s designed to make our lives easier, we just have to find it.
#4 Feel the fear and do it anyway…
This sentence is synonymous with the title of Susan Jeffers’ best-selling book, but something that we will all have to face. This is going to be the time when an existing plan has gone up in smoke and you have to regroup, or the usual way of working just doesn’t cut it anymore. You have to act fast, ignore that beating heart and plunge right in with both feet first – you won’t regret it!
This now neatly segways me on to my final observation…
#5 It doesn’t need to be perfect
Unlike the Government and the heroes of the NHS, we’re all in roles where we can afford to make a few mistakes now and then. We’re in uncharted territory after all, so it’s to be expected right?
I’ve spoken to many schools recently who are quite rightly very concerned about their admissions numbers dropping and open days being postponed. However, if there’s one thing that I’ve learnt from working with school marketers, it’s that you’re such a resourceful bunch. Give you a challenge and you’ll most certainly rise to the occasion. I’ve seen new web pages created in a matter of days for prospective families, uplifting and appropriate social media content and some fantastic examples of schools facing this challenge head on.
So my message to you is while you must do ‘something’ (doing nothing won’t really get you anywhere), that ‘something’ doesn’t have to be perfect. If you don’t have 360° school footage, don’t worry, there’s ways around it. If you’re not a specialist in crisis communications and in need of advice, just add a post to our School Marketing Matters closed Facebook Group You aren’t alone, we’re all in the same boat and no doubt, we’ll make a few mistakes along the way. But for every mistake we make, we’ll learn from it.
So, that’s my musings after four weeks of remote working during COVID-19 and it’s certainly starting to feel like the new normal. If you’ve had any revelations during this time, I’d love to hear them.
From all of the Ambleglow team, stay safe, be well and here’s to brighter times to come.