No one company can really say they were truly prepared for the coronavirus pandemic
No one company can really say it was truly prepared for the coronavirus pandemic. There has not been an outbreak of this size and scale since the 1918 Spanish flu. CloserStill Media, like a lot of other businesses, had to turn to draw up a pandemic response plan - and fast. First, to manage risk as far as possible, and second to ensure business continuity when face-to-face events (our stock in trade) became impossible to run.
We made significant adjustments to our international operations to ensure our staff could continue working remotely while still providing value to clients, many of which were in need of new channels to fill the void left by the temporary cessation of physical events. Here’s how we transitioned to 100% remote working and transferred our event expertise into the digital domain.
If you ask CloserStill’s 260 employees for the tool they have found most beneficial throughout the pandemic, almost all of them would point to Slack. The day after the UK introduced stay-at-home measures, Slack was spun up across our entire network. 2 months later, almost 120,000 messages, documents and smileys have been sent. Unsurprisingly, our tech-savvy marketing team comfortably leads in message volume (but who’s counting).
In terms of idea sharing, the instant messaging app is no replacement for taps on the shoulder or quick questions by the coffee machine. But the speed with which you can connect with your colleagues one-to-one, group chats, or focused channels has enabled ideas to spread through the organisation and like wildfire and energised countless projects that will provide value to the business long-after the pandemic subsides (more on those later).
Let’s not forget our employees are friends as well as colleagues. Covid-19 presented untold challenges to the daily lives of our people. At a time when staff needed our support more than ever, Slack allowed distant team members to swap music and film suggestions, share motivational stories to help lift the mood on the darker days, and just generally let off some steam.
Ok, we were technically making use of this cloud-based project management tool before Covid-19, but never more so than since the pandemic. Monday.com takes Google Sheets to the next level. Not only is it more visually appealing (which always helps), it’s packed with powerful features that have helped employees plan, execute and track new digital initiatives with ease.
Across our portfolios, content strategies, social media calendars and webinar schedules are centralised on Monday.com with automated reminders synced across Slack to ensure deadlines are met and that colleagues are notified of progress. It has proven especially popular for employee task management, with many staff substituting diaries for self-replicating weekly schedules that managers in turn view and update.
Staff are consistently improving and iterating approaches to ensure they can spend their time doing rather than recording. Automation best practices and lovingly-created project templates are shared regularly on Slack to help other areas of the organisation rapidly get new projects live. That our entire marketing department can see how colleagues in other regions and portfolios are leveraging Monday.com is another bonus.
Monday.com hasn’t replaced Google Sheets entirely as there are still functions (such as reporting) where Sheets excels (no pun intended). But anytime an employee considers loading up a new sheet, we always make sure whether it’s something Monday.com could better fulfil. Almost always Monday.com is the preferred choice.
You couldn’t write an article like this without mentioning Zoom. While not without the occasional technical difficulty, it’s just about the most pain-free way to hold meetings online, however large or small. While just about ‘everyone and their nan’ is using it, we like to feel we’ve flexed our Zoom muscles better than most.
Every Monday morning departments hold coffee catchups or “Rahs” as they’re known, and the week is usually closed with 5 o’clock drinks (for reasons we cannot fathom staff are far more punctual on the latter). Zoom is also our internal classroom. Each week staff from across the business volunteer to host a short educational session on everything from Google Ads to content writing. So far 116 have been held, recorded and uploaded to our internal training platform for on-demand and future viewing.
But the pinnacle was surely UK Marketing’s Lockdown Awards ceremony, where a suited-and-booted UK office turned out in full force to recognise the special contributions of their colleagues during this turbulent time. Silly and sincere awards were dished out in equal measure and board members presented the victors with their hard-earned medals.
The pandemic hit the events industry hard. As a company that runs over 70 events worldwide, we had to quickly find ways to shift our event expertise online. Thankfully, it’s never been easier to provide compelling content to our audiences digitally.
Even though they cannot replicate the atmosphere of face-to-face events, webinars were quickly identified as a solid medium for delivering ‘event-like’ experiences online. Ultimately, we knew our engaged databases could provide serious value to clients in special need of new business.
With a sea of options out there our remote-workforce set about choosing a platform. Several Zooms, demos, a Monday.com board and Slack channel later, BigMarker was chosen. What we love about the platform are its analytical capabilities. We can provide rich insight into audience engagement and work with clients on polling and Q&As that helps them nurture target personas.
It’s easy to see why businesses love doing webinars with CloserStill. Amid a crowded market and rising ‘webinar fatigue’ we have consistently delivered. A few stats: since launching our first Webinar on May 6th, we have run 56, with an average of 408 registrants and 197 attendees.
Webinars clearly provide special (if slightly different) value to events in the field, and will absolutely be part of our offering long after the pandemic subsides. End-to-End Virtual Events are in the pipeline, but we are being careful to make sure any platform does our traditional events justice. Stay tuned for more information.