2020 was a year like no other. A pandemic swept the globe. Calls for racial justice rocked communities and companies. The world watched the U.S. undergo a particularly contentious election. Uncertainty felt like the rule of law, and many were left unsure what to do or say.
As PR professionals, we worked to help our clients find their voices and continue to grow their businesses, despite the economic downturn. And we’ll continue to do so in 2021. For some perspective and insight on the year ahead, Liaison sat down with founder and president Heidi Lowell to discuss what businesses need to be thinking about to succeed in 2021.
As a business owner, how have you navigated all the uncertainty that came with 2020?
The first step was focusing on the people that keep this company going. For our employees, that means shifting quickly to a work from home model, flexible hours, extra time off if needed for their families, and any other support we could provide. For our clients, that meant working harder than ever to be sure they could weather the storm that was 2020. We brainstormed additional ways we could give them a leg up. We stayed in constant communication and sent regular recommendations. We were also incredibly flexible, and did not charge them for overage to help with COVID-related pivots and needs. All of that support was key.
And, at the same time, we really upped the game on our own marketing and devoted downtime to developments within the business. We launched a new website, started our first newsletter, and created promotional content to help spread the Liaison name far and wide. And I’ve got to say, it really paid off.
For PR specifically, what’s the approach that made the difference in helping clients through the year?
The thing that really made a big difference was knowing that now is not the time to pull back on PR and marketing. When crises hit, the default can be to go silent. It’s understandable, but often not advantageous. We didn’t shy away from press, but rather went all out on features, briefings, social media, and more. And we did so with a recognition of the moment. That meant helping clients focus on where they add value and what is interesting about them and their tools right now. Lastly, we served as a guiding force for when to speak and when to hold back – including when to go silent on social channels, and how to manage external as well as internal communication during challenging times.
Has 2020 taught us anything about the 3D industry?
2020 has lessons for all of us, and the 3D industry is no exception. One thing that stands out is how resilient this industry really is. 2020 shook the world, but our clients continued to innovate month after month, whether that’s Digital Domain with a slate of R&D releases, or Chaos Group launching its highly anticipated Chaos Vantage. We even saw clients getting really creative in ways specific to the restrictions and lockdowns, like Theia Interactive’s BigRoom Holiday Bash.
The good news is that 3D has become so central to how a lot of businesses operate. Visualization won’t go away. VR headsets are selling like crazy. The demand for content has never been bigger. AR is poised to explode in the next few years. 5G is going to open up a lot of streaming opportunities for immersive content. So, while there’s no doubt that this moment is challenging, 3D-centric companies are in a great position to achieve big things in the years to come.
Moving into the year ahead, what’s next for Liaison?
So much! As the communications landscape continues to change, we’re always looking for new ways to support clients. Integrated campaigns are becoming increasingly important. Businesses need to not only be thinking about how earned and paid media are going to work together, but how their strategic messaging is going to reach their intended audience within both channels. For instance, in some markets, we’re seeing more pay-to-play scenarios, where sponsored content is becoming mandatory for coverage. So it’s less of a “this or that” choice and more of a decision about what’s actually going to accomplish your goals. To do that, we all need to ask ourselves which stories/ideas lend themselves best to each style of content. That’s how we will all be more effective long-term.
We have already had a lot of success building out integrated campaigns. We’re doing more marketing than ever before, and expanding our content creation and creative services division too. This is something we’re excited to do more of with existing clients, as well as new ones.
What’s your advice for others as they face 2021?
Embrace the new market and everything ahead of you. Now is not the time to slow down. In fact, now is precisely the time to push harder, get your name out there, and set a strong foundation for the post-COVID era. Even just being present and proactive can remind clients that you’re staying strong through a turbulent period. If you’re investing time in your marketing, for example, people will notice, and that helps steer the conversation in your favor. There are also always opportunities from a PR sense, like leveraging your expertise to comment on current events from an industry perspective. Especially when the larger news environment feels rather bleak, you can use your voice to inspire and excite people in your line of work.
And if you do find yourself with downtime, it’s also worth having a think about if the path you’re on as a company is the right one. If it’s not, you have the time to start heading in a new direction or taking on projects (even spec projects) that will excite your employees and in time, your customers and observers.
It’s true that the future is uncertain and there is a lot we can’t control, but companies that have made it this far have learned to pivot, and that’s something each of us needs to lean into. So be thinking about what you can do tomorrow to better position yourself for months down the line. That means developing your plan. How will your team transition back to in-person services? How will your new business strategy change? What opportunities might arise later in the year, and how can you improve your chances of snagging those? Be thinking about these things. And be open to the fact that business may look a little different, and that’s okay.
It can feel overwhelming, but this can just as easily be an exciting time for you and your company. And if you need any help getting your PR, marketing, and social media in order, we’re here for you.