In our April edition, MD of Future Life Wealth Management Jillian Thomas warned against cutting marketing spend during COVID-19, saying: “Companies must be high profile and visible during this difficult time –the message has to be ‘Sheffield City Region is open for business’.

With Make Yourself at Home promoting Sheffield, as well as giving businesses a toolkit to communicate to their customers, Jill Theobald takes a look at the ways marketing is continuing to help – and the firms leading the way

‘We’re reyt proud of where we come from!’

What better way to kick off a feature on marketing and encouraging businesses to make their staff and customers feel at home in Sheffield than with that opener from Rich Davies of Affinity IT Services Ltd.

The account manager explains: “As a Sheffield born and bred business, we’re delighted to be backing Make Yourself at Home.

“Affinity have had their roots firmly planted in Sheffield since 2006 and some staff even longer – they even read ‘Sheffield’ like a stick of rock if you cut them in half! 

“However, we find ourselves in difficult times and we feel we should all stand together as a city and support other people and businesses. We’ve found marketing incredibly powerful during these times and we’ve kept the message going out that we are here to help and deliver what we like to call ‘edutainment’.

“We’ve continued our PCs for Charity scheme where any Sheffield City Region registered charity can apply for two used PCs from us.

“As everyone overnight had to work from home this opened up the use of video calling and we ran free webinars and training sessions to offer the skills to continue to meet online. All the training sessions are on our YouTube channel, as well as useful hints, tips and tricks.

“Marketing has never been more important to keep people educated and informed during these uncertain times.”

Rob Cole, CEO of Sheffield Sustainable Kitchens, agrees: “Make Yourself at Home is a great campaign to showcase our fantastic city. It has been a useful resource for Sheffield Sustainable Kitchens, to highlight our contribution to the Sheffield community as we build back better and greener in response to COVID.

Sheffield Sustainable Kitchens

“Sheffield is a unique city and one of the friendliest places a person could live. Our community is warm and welcoming, and this is reflected in the huge numbers of residents who were originally from elsewhere, but now make Sheffield their home.

“Make Yourself at Home embodies the Sheffield spirit in a clean, crisp and easy to understand way. The campaign is highly relevant, as we are working to recover from the impacts of COVID – it helps businesses tell their customers that they care, they’ll look after them and make sure they feel safe, just like they would in their own home. It shows that we are a local business that customers can support, and that, in turn, the business supports the community.

“It’s a really strong marketing campaign that supports our community and I encourage other businesses to use this free resource – let’s own it and make it stick!”

 

Allie Dransfield, head of client management, HRM PR & Creative

Having worked in the PR sector for the last 15 years I have seen my fair share of crises. Whether they be client specific or an event on a national scale I have guided clients through many things – but something I hadn’t come across until March this year was delivering PR during a pandemic.

They certainly don’t teach you any strategy skills for that on any crisis management courses I have been on – although I am sure that will change now – and yet in moments of crisis as PR professionals we are often the first people our clients come to for advice and guidance.

Indeed, HRM is a PR and creative agency which prides itself on providing strategic communications and reputation management.

On that fateful Monday in March when Boris Johnson announced that everyone who could work from home should do, off we all went, laptops and chargers in hand and a sense of anticipation at what was to come. Who knew that countless Zoom calls later, I think I lost count at around 200, we would still be working from home in the summer.

Our fantastic team may have been working from home, but boy have we worked hard and adapted to a new way of working. From daily team Zoom calls, virtual client meetings, creating Covid-19 PR strategies, constant social media creation, identifying media opportunities, to pitching and securing new business our workload over the last few months has showcased the important role that PR and marketing plays during a crisis.

Our client teams have worked tirelessly to support and advise throughout, we have been sounding boards to our clients as well as leading the way in all aspects of communications.

We have created and implemented PR and creative strategies on an individual client by client basis. There isn’t a one size fits comms plan which can be applied, therefore we have worked with our clients to protect, strengthen and grow their brands throughout this period to maintain the desire for their customers to want to visit/buy/work with them in the future.

Our clients have adapted their offering and in turn so have we. We have adapted our service levels to match their needs and allowed them to maintain a visible presence in their marketplace and the media.

PR never stops and we certainly haven’t! The advice and guidance we have given our clients over the last weeks and months has ensured they have been able to communicate with their audience who have had the time to fully listen to their messages.

Engaging with your target audience in a way which connects and resonates with them is always essential, but even more so in these most extreme of circumstances, and this continues as move out of lockdown.

During these most extraordinary of times we have managed to secure a number of new clients, all of whom have recognised just how important PR & marketing is right now – which is testament to the work our talented team have been doing.

We may not have been designated as key workers, but the work we have done has undoubtedly ensured future success for our clients and I am very proud of that and our team.

 

Doug Banks, founder, Doug Banks Photography

Businesses are fire-fighting the daily operational challenges – this would be the case in normal times.

But even more so at the moment, as businesses start to reopen and welcome customers back, and attempt to bounce back.

I’m Doug, a business branding photographer based in Sheffield.

I’ve been helping businesses throughout lockdown, and now as they start to get back up and running again to somewhere close to normal, too.

Communication of all forms with customers and clients is hugely valuable at the moment – especially visual communication.

People can then quickly understand what your latest offerings are, along with any new changes.

People want to know that the new environment looks enjoyable and safe.

In addition to this, many businesses have used lockdown to work ON their businesses rather than IN, and this may have included work on branding, and how that brand is visually communicated.

Having a set of 100+ high quality professional images ready to go for social media purposes, website use, and PR and print is an invaluable resource for any business owner.

Being able to tell the story of your business, the processes, and how you make your clients and customers feel is key.

Images can have a very real impact on the positioning, sustainability and growth of a business.

Don’t neglect such an important part of marketing and communication.

 

Melinda Schofield, station director, Hallam FM

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Whether you are listening to the radio while working from home or finding you have more time to tune in more, radio has been a loyal and trusted medium during lockdown.

People’s desire to access radio content – for weather, news, music, travel, presenters or as their companion – has kept our diverse audiences connected, informed, engaged, and entertained.

Commercial radio listeners are tuning in more than before lockdown – an increase of 38 per cent – but not only are more people listening, they are listening for longer, too.

As we look at the bounce back and beyond, there are different attitudes to spending driven by perceived risk and available funds, with shops reopening their doors, car dealerships back in business and some limited leisure activities available.

Radio has a key role to play in purchase decisions, particularly among the newly working from home who have an even greater opportunity to be impacted.

The basic principles still apply – companies have products and services they need to market and there is still consumer demand. What has changed is how the two meet, and this is where Hallam FM works for South Yorkshire businesses.

Hallam FM is celebrating its 45th year and is not only a heritage brand but the Number One Commercial Radio Station for South Yorkshire. The station is multi-platform – on air, on ground, online and an ability to create video, making Hallam FM a total media solution.

We have successfully continued to be the voice, digital vehicle and outlet of many organisations, giving guidance, support and advice to business during this time to ensure they have the tools ready to bounce back and beyond.

 

Ash Young, MD Evoluted

We’ve all been forced to live, work and think entirely differently over the past few months – all businesses have suffered in different ways. We’ve been fortunate, as we don’t specialise in one industry. While a few clients had no choice but to pause marketing, those in a more positive position have thrived and taken the opportunity to spend this unprecedented time getting ahead of competitors.

Digital marketing is more important than ever

A silver lining in this crazy period, is businesses have realised just how important digital marketing is.

If paid advertising is forced to stop, it pays to have invested in SEO, ensuring high organic search rankings and most importantly, FREE traffic to your website.

Marketing in a post-COVID world

As an agency, we need to be understanding and aware of our clients’ positions.

The same goes for talking to your customers – being human and empathetic in marketing, rather than a hard sell will go a long way. While there will still be a place for physical stores, the pandemic has highlighted the benefits of digital-first marketing strategy.

I’d recommend considering the following in a post-COVID world:

Assess all your communication – what’s getting a positive response? What was valuable during the pandemic and is it still valuable now?

How can you improve user experience? Be trustworthy and make it as easy as possible to shop with you.

Customers want to know what you stand for, are you sustainable? We’ll see great value from a commitment to the environment – perhaps even more so than before the pandemic.

Do you have a strong online presence and a digital-first strategy?

Keeping the community spirit alive

At Evoluted, we run a bi-monthly event, SheffieldDM – bringing together digital marketers across Yorkshire for a series of expert talks. Moving to virtual conferences helped to keep a sense of community spirit during a very tough time, providing an opportunity to share knowledge and ask advice from experts. Not only that, but we’ve been able to expand our speaker roster to include the best from around the country.

SheffieldDM is free to everyone. Our next one is the biggest ever – a whole day event with 15 experts talking about everything SEO, paid media, content and PR, and personal branding. Register for your ticket and join us on August 6. If you missed our first virtual conference back in May, you can still catch up and view the recording at: www.sheffielddm.co.uk/blog/202005-meetup-9.php

Pulling together and going the extra mile

I saw the past few months as a really important time for businesses to pull together and get through this – going the extra mile for all of our clients. Personally, and as an agency, we also took to social media to offer free no obligation marketing advice and support, or even just a chat. That offer still stands, so feel free to get in touch at ash@evoluted.email.