When the strict rules of lockdown were announced in NSW at the end of March, like most business owners we feared the worst.
However, while we initially saw some cutbacks from clients most have realised the importance of keeping active. Indeed, the unknown impact of the virus and government action on the economic and business outlook itself created a media appetite for expert financial opinion and commentary.
Meanwhile, circumstances created other opportunities, such as the need for experts to explain developments like JobKeeper and the tax impact of working from home.
History also tells us that when marketing and communication budgets are cut, public relations budgets don’t suffer as much among those who recognise it is a cost-effective way to retain a profile.
No doubt our fee arrangements helped us a lot, as we charge only for hours worked – subject to a relatively small minimum monthly fee. So clients were not faced with large monthly retainers that might have seemed inappropriate in the new circumstances.
We found that our usual approach of being active on behalf of clients, rather than passively waiting for instruction, received a good response in other ways during the lockdown as well. Most clients (and journalists, for that matter) welcomed the contact. Working in isolation at home seemed to mean they were often keen to talk to us more than usual. And the feeling – at least from the point of view of my Sydney suburban isolation – was definitely mutual.
Using video meetings is almost like being invited into a person’s home. You frequently also get to meet (or sometimes just see or hear in the background) family members and pets.
Consequently, we feel we were able to develop an additional personal aspect to our relationships. Most contacts were very friendly and responsive, and some obviously felt the isolation more than others.
Although we greatly missed the personal contact – the brainstorming over coffee and other meetings that we had in more normal times – overall, we’d like to think a new dimension has been added to our relationships, as well as to our business, and that they have been strengthened.
As I watch with dismay at the strict stay-at-home orders that are being reintroduced in Victoria, I fervently hope it doesn’t come to this again in NSW. Of course, there are no guarantees as each State continues to fight COVID-19, but it would appear that we have a while to go before normal life resumes. But here’s hoping that it happens sooner rather than later, as we are itching to cement relationships, roll out the parts of our client programs that had to be suspended, and take advantage of the new opportunities we have identified.