Communicating during COVID-19

Lighthouse

COVID-19 has created a multitude of challenges for us all, personally, and professionally and our thoughts are with everyone who has suffered during this period. Our latest blog provides an update on activity at Fortitude during COVID-19.

Many areas of business various management functions have played a key role throughout COVID-19, from operations, accounting, HR, legal, to communications. 

Most organisations have refined their business objectives and operations, and this has meant in many cases an urgent need for clear messages to be delivered quickly to colleagues, suppliers, partners, and customers. This has varied depending on each organisation and invariably required a fluid approach to communications and PR, due to the nature of the pandemic. Publicly we have seen some high-profile examples of major companies failing at communicating effectively, while many other others have got it just right. 

At Fortitude, like many businesses we have been impacted by COVID-19. But we adapted quickly and have ensured a continued and consistent service for all our clients where appropriate and required. We have been grateful for great support from our clients and delivery partners and that we have been able to shift our business operations to our homes. It has been quite a journey, and due to our diverse client portfolio one in which we have experienced and seen the impact of COVID-19 on multiple sectors. 

Our team have shared various the experiences with our clients throughout. One thing for sure is COVID-19 has demonstrated some serious resolve in the business community, in the face of some incredible challenges. The team at Fortitude has nothing but respect for our clients, delivery partners, and friends that are overcoming some major challenges on an on-going basis. We believe COVID-19 is making commercial relationships stronger, as we all seek to overcome the challenge together. 

In this blog we will provide a snapshot of how Fortitude has been supporting businesses and charities in their communications during COVID-19. Overall, it is a story of how businesses are achieving so much despite serious short falls in revenue, to ensure they have an opportunity to remain in the marketplace and protect jobs. Alongside this is also highlights how important good communication is. 

COVID-19 Corporate Communications

Clear communications to all stakeholders have been paramount during COVID-19. The fast-changing parameters of the pandemic have meant many businesses have needed to provide key updates quickly and effectively, both internally and externally. Adopting the right position and tone of voice has been important in all communications. 

Striking the right balance has been key, as companies have sought to maintain sensitivity, humility, care, and respect, while seeking to re-build colleague and consumer confidence where appropriate. 

At Fortitude we have supported most of our clients with key external communications throughout the pandemic. This has varied in demand, and with Oxford Bus Company, and Oxford United in the Community, for example, has required on-going communications delivery to reach large and diverse audiences with multiple messages. 

Fortitude has delivered key communications on service updates and government guidance for Oxford Bus Company, including enhanced hygiene and social distancing regimes. This has resulted in multiple online and print pieces and broadcast slots including on Sky News, BBC South Today, BBC Radio Oxford and Oxford Mail.

PR for new business launch 

Supporting a new business launch is always an exciting brief for a PR agency. But to do so during a world-wide pandemic has been an uplifting experience for the Fortitude team. We have helped three businesses go public’ during lockdown, in fantastic stories of entrepreneurial spirit. One example is XTECH, an Oxfordshire IT firm founded by entrepreneur Steve Thompson. XTECH has been created to offer the best technology and software on the market to businesses. You can read all about it in one of the pieces we placed here.

Innovating during COVID-19

We have seen some great examples of innovation during COVID-19, from breweries producing hand sanitizer through to racing car manufacturers producing PPE

Tech has been at the forefront of innovation during COVID-19. In some cases, it has sparked the creation of new technology, while in many it has simply accelerated the rate of adoption of existing tech. 

Our client TicketCo, a cloud-based payment platform for the events industry, saw revenue dry-up when lockdown was introduced. But the team did what they do best: innovated. 

Initially it added functionality to its platform with the introduction of vouchers, a forgo payment option, automated en-mass cancellation functionality and an improved membership scheme offering. 

We have heard terms like pivot’ and survive and thrive’ a lot during COVID-19. And TicketCo’s next step was a perfect example of genuine pivoting. The company invested in R&D and created TicketCo TV, a pay-per-view live streaming and video on demand service to support the event industry during the COVID-019 pandemic and beyond. The service enables promoters and venues to book performance artists and broadcast exclusive pay-per-view events via the internet on their own TV channel. 

This kept the entire team in jobs and provided a compelling offering to take to market that has longevity. Within weeks TicketCo TV was researched, developed, and launched. And it has been welcomed by the events industry. 

It has been a fantastic experience witnessing a company demonstrate such desire to respond to an almighty challenge positively and to adapt quickly and effectively. Fortitude launched TicketCo TV with strong multiple coverage in the trade press and broadcast media, here are some examples: Stand Out magazine, Ticketing Business News.

We have communicated its on-going development, including TicketCo TV partnering with the Henley Festival to live stream its Digital Edition staring Beverley Knight and Will Young. Plus Ticketco TV creating an online TV channel for UK comedy promoter Just The Tonic to live stream its Working from Home’ series, which saw Fortitude deliver blanket coverage. The show has featured comedians including Johnny Vegas, Jon Richardson, Al Murray, Naomi Cooper, Russell Kane, and others. Embracing modern technology has enabled the Henley Festival and Just The Tonic to continue to deliver shows direct to its audience and generate revenue during the pandemic. 

TicketCo’s cashless payment technology is also being embraced as venues introduce enhanced hygiene in preparation for welcoming back crowds. Scottish League One club Clyde FC have integrated TicketCo’s cashless technology at the Broadwood Stadium. It represents a significant move towards what is believed to be Scotland’s first cashless stadium. Fortitude communicated the story, delivering multiple coverage including in the Daily Record, FC Business, and Access All Areas.

Oxford Bus Company, Thames Travel and Carousel Buses have also used technology to improve their service to passengers during COVID-19 in partnership with parent company the Go-Ahead Group. The group of companies launched a tool called When2Travel’ that uses AI predictive technology to help passengers avoid busy times while capacity is reduced to enable social distancing. Combined with enhanced hygiene and​the wearing of face coverings it has aimed to provide​customers with the confidence to use buses as​they return to work and other activities. You can read more here.

Adapting

Adapting has been key to businesses surviving the pandemic and there have been numerous stories in the media of how businesses have adjusted operations. Our clients Oxford Bus Company, Thames Travel, and Carousel Buses have undergone major operational shifts to respond to demand on an ever-changing basis. This included providing core services for key workers during full lockdown and introducing a major hygiene, cleaning, and social distancing system across its fleets. Services are increasing as easing of restrictions continue. 

Digital accountancy practice Cypher adjusted its operations to provide vital support to its clients during lockdown. Cypher provided lifeboat calls’ to its clients and set up a What’s App support group to provide constant guidance and advice. Its experience supporting businesses across multiple sectors gave Cypher a unique view of the regional economy. Cypher founder Matt Williams concluded the consensus was one of resolve, determination to survive and a collective community spirit. Fortitude placed a first-person piece on Cypher’s experience here.

Oxford United in the Community had to suspend its traditional operations of delivering football programmes to youngsters. It meant the charity had to adapt and find new ways to deliver impact in the community. This resulted in some major projects including delivering homework packs to lockdown children, producing and broadcasting fitness programmes on social media, and distributing Oxford United branded face masks to care homes. A summary of how the charity adapted can be found via an article we placed via the EFL Trust news website. 

Community spirit

One of the big positives during the pandemic has been the strong sense of community spirit. 

At Fortitude we like to give back where possible. We took part in the 2.6 Challenge, created after the London Marathon was postponed, to raise funds for Oxford United in the Community. 

Fortitude also supported Oxfordshire MIND in launching a public health awareness and donation campaign. It was designed to encourage people who may need some support to contact the mental health charity and to generate vital funds. This resulted in multiple pieces and an increase in people contacting the charity to source support or donate. 

Fortitude generously supported us to launch our Donation Appeal recently, enabling us to broaden our reach through radio broadcasts and newspaper articles. Greig’s support and experience has been invaluable,” said Kathyrn Pickup, Community Fundraiser at Oxfordshire MIND

One of our highlights of lockdown was the unique footage our video producer Thom Airs recorded in Oxford city centre. Thom captured Oxford’s eerily quiet streets by filming a bike ride through the centre. Fortitude shared the video with Experience Oxfordshire to help the Destination Management Organisation promote Oxford. You can watch the video here.

The NHS have rightly been supported by so many people across the UK via fundraising efforts. Fortitude has helped communicate the support provided of the Oxford City Stars ice hockey club. It raised funds by selling face coverings and has also announced it will welcome NHS staff to matches for free next season. 

Sustainability

The pandemic has been a time of great reflection, which has seen many of us re-evaluate how we do business and how to live. The impact our actions have on the environment and each other has garnered greater scrutiny during the pandemic. 

Our client the Sheehan Group has been a great leader in the sustainable construction movement in the UK. It has reminded industry that the Circular Driven Economy is key to a post COVID-19 UK recovery, job creation and greater sustainability. The recycling and construction company is encouraging SMEs and contractors to source local products and supplies to reduce the UK’s overreliance on global supply chains, thereby improving the environment and supporting local jobs. Our press release on the appeal was covered by leading trade titles including Agg Net.

It is a valuable philosophy and one which can be applied to most business sectors. 

Communications will continue to play a key role in supporting businesses and charities as we all continue to navigate the pandemic. 

The team at Fortitude wishes everyone good health. Keep safe. 

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