It might be cliché to say the world has changed in the last two years, but it really has. Not just in the manner by which we work, but in the ways we look at the future, make certain decisions and consume and disseminate news. During the height of the pandemic, when working from home insulated us from the outside world, we found solace on our screens. The KARV team initiated daily virtual meetings, many opened with suggestions for a new show to binge. The beginning of the pandemic was a pause to reality and, in a bizarre way, sparked the cultivation of new communities in an entirely new way: we existed in our own virtual worlds.
The transition to adapting to our clients’ ever-changing needs presented us with daily challenges. At the same time, our clients had to adapt to changing consumer attitudes, purchasing patterns, and logistical issues; not to mention the health issues that became paramount. Not only did the world come to a screeching halt, but we all also had to learn how to navigate through a pandemic. Many of us knew someone who got sick, missed work or unfortunately passed away from COVID-19.
In order to best accommodate our clients, we had to ask ourselves: how do we change and adapt to this brand new world? What do our clients expect from us? And how can we help them shift their communications strategies and approaches so they can best reach their clients and stakeholders?
|This article is featured in O'Dwyer's Jan. '22 Crisis Communications & PR Buyer's Guide Magazine
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Around-the-clock availability was the initial necessary change. If our clients could take calls and make things happen from home all hours of the day, every day of the week, then we would accommodate their needs. Fortunately, we were able to do so dressed in sweats and T-shirts emblazoned with our favorite sports teams, rock bands, or silly sayings. We also produced a KARV background that was viewed by clients and contacts the world over.
We all appreciated and understood that kids and home life often had to take precedence over a virtual meeting. Kids—or pets—made constant appearances in our Zoom rooms, running or screaming in the background. We grew accustomed to working outside to catch a glimpse of the sunlight, or to taking calls on a couch when the makeshift “office” was occupied. Bad lighting, pixelated co-workers and “you’re on mute” became constants for us as well as our clients all over the world.
A new client of ours during the pandemic was headquartered in Vienna, owned by a Japanese company, had a subsidiary in Slovenia, and one of its employees was arrested in Belarus. Talk about cross-continental coordination! While we didn’t have to find passports and jump on airplanes, we had to schedule video calls across many different time zones, with most falling well outside standard business hours in one or more jurisdictions.
From our WFH locations, we quickly assembled a team with an international law firm. Our role was to monitor the situation and provide real-time strategic counsel on developments in Belarus, which at the time was in the midst of a Presidential election and the subsequent mass protests. We engaged a PR firm in Slovenia to deepen our local knowledge and provide support in case something critical emerged during overnight hours in the U.S.
This is what we do: bring local knowledge to our global clients to help them best achieve their communications and business goals.
During my career, I’ve helped clients based in more than fifty countries and counting. And, as we’ve seen throughout 2021, local issues are having more and more of a global impact on businesses. This necessitates using our local knowledge on a global scale to create effective communications strategies and solutions.
So, how does a small boutique firm like ours consistently punch above its weight, gaining global clients with high-stakes challenges?
The answer is simple: we curate the right team at the right time to navigate each unique situation, and we do it quickly. No matter where in the world they’re located, we deliver expert counsel to help our clients through the complex crisis and communications issues of today.
The pandemic taught us that we didn’t have to fly everywhere for a day (although nothing can replace an in-person meeting, especially if it’s over a bonding meal). Instead, we woke up at 4:00 a.m. to speak with Europe, or stayed up late to talk to Japan between episodes of “The Sopranos,” or did both—woke up early and stayed up late—to work with the Middle East. We try to have a life beyond our job, but, when we serve clients, we serve them in their local time.
The sheer diversity of media has changed the way clients think about their own messages and the appropriate platforms for delivering them to their audiences. Our job as communication professionals has been made more difficult by the constant devouring of news and the multitude of social media channels people use to share opinions, but it’s also made our job more innovative, exciting and fulfilling. Creative thinking and teamwork are required now more than ever to help problem-solve. I always want more than four eyes on a paper, more than one person sharing thoughts with a client, and everyone who comes to a (virtual) meeting to offer meaningful contributions to the discussion.
The work we do during a crisis generally comes on quickly, then dissipates just as fast. We work intensely in the background to get to know our clients, talking constantly and in some cases keeping the video call open for hours. It’s equally as important to know that during this time, we have found balance. We encouraged our team members to take “recess”: walk outside, kick a ball with their kids or ride a bike. It makes us better and more creative at what we do, so when our clients call we are ready to pitch in and give them the best possible advice.
The pandemic has changed us, but I believe the KARV team has changed for the better.
Andrew Frank is Founder and President of KARV Communications.