Zoom parties are not fun

Fiona Lund, MD of Brouha, discusses why social distancing has actually brought us closer together.

Alongside the fact that company Zoom parties are not fun, the last 12 months of remote working have brought with them many novel experiences and insights: Amazon’s uncanny knack to sync their deliveries with the start of any Teams call; almost nobody follows the office’s standard clean desk policy; glasses save you wearing makeup but can give you away if you’ve found something interesting to read elsewhere on the internet; and we’re all on first name terms with someone’s whole family of kids, cats, dogs and occasional in-law.

On a more serious note, social distancing, while at times lonely and challenging, has also forced us to adopt and master new ways of communication, and some of these look set to continue long after the mask wearing and 2m rule are distant memories.

When people ask us as comms specialists how we’ve kept going over the last year (“Isn’t marketing after all the first thing to get cut when the economy takes a dive?’”), our answer is: “We’re the busiest we’ve ever been.”

Furlough at full pay in the sunshine was but a distant dream. As well as adapting how we’ve worked to deliver the best service we can to customers, we’ve also seen distinct moves from different types of content and faster-moving campaigns. When the first lockdown happened, and businesses were literally forced to close their doors, it was all about managing customers’ crisis communications to employees and customers. Once it was clear that manufacturing could resume, we then moved into training mode with the development of many health and safety protocols and manuals to ensure safe returns to work.

Customers were also keen to share feelgood and morale boosting stories very much along the lines of ‘we’re in this together’. It was actually quite moving to be part of. In recent months, it has all been about how best to return to a new normal. It’s obvious that those businesses that kept digital lines of communication open, especially social media, have fared better than those who didn’t. Businesses who didn’t understand the value of social media prior to the pandemic, when left with literally no other means of communicating with the outside world, are now convinced.

At the end of last year, one of the many virtual round tables organised by Brouha involved a group of senior housing specialists all invited to discuss and answer a single question: has social distancing brought us closer together?

A really fascinating debate, which you can catch on replay, the resounding conclusion was yes. The panel all agreed that their organisations are closer to their people, customers and suppliers than ever before. Lessons learned during the pandemic had made them think differently about how to become better organisations, confront strategic issues like how to harness technology for communication, and assess practical questions, like the need for in-person face-to-face meetings (while they will always have a place, the new digital meeting room is a far more inclusive and efficient place).

In summary, there is now much more engaging, customer-centric content delivered more effectively than the internally focused “look, aren’t we great!” posts. This shift has been one of the best things to come out of the last year from a marketing perspective.

There are many others too like reduced carbon footprint, no longer having to describe the difference between Instagram and Twitter, and watching the industry embrace a long-needed modernisation.

So yes, there are lessons that have definitely been learned, and better businesses forged as a result, but we stand by the fact that Zoom parties are not one of them.