Life in a London communications consultancy during a pandemic

PR and Marketing have a reputation for being very social industries when compared to others, and there is a reason for that! The communications industry has long been associated with evening functions, coffee catch-ups and exclusive events; however when the pandemic began, everything became quite different. 

April 2020 smacked cities around the world, like London, with strict lockdowns which continued through for the better half of two years. Work from home became the norm, offices closed their doors, and you may wonder how an industry so firmly rooted in social in-person events transitions to this new virtual world? When work began at Gallium in August last year, there was a quiet hum in the air, instead of that frenetic buzz London is famously known for. I quickly acclimated to this more sedate version of London and in doing so, the virtual world of PR and Marketing. I will share my experience working in a London based agency through the pandemic and share my thoughts and reflections on this truly unique time.

Most of the team were working from home and Gallium quickly adapted. Daily “open-mics” were introduced whereby for one hour of the day all team members could dial into an audio only call and just chat without the pressure of an agenda. This chat could be about work, the latest news, entertaining stories, movie recommendations and everything and anything in between. This hour helped the team connect on a level that was lost during those full-time home office hours. For someone like myself who was new to London and PR, I really appreciated this informal hour of chit chat.

September to November felt like a waiting game; waiting to see if events would be cancelled whilst trying to anticipate lockdown rule changes. During this period, it became clear all events would either be cancelled or go online. It was interesting to see how different companies adapted to being digital, from award ceremonies to boat races, the experience was unusual and at times a bit of a hit and miss. Let me now dive a little deeper into one specific story which was somewhat of a highlight for me. One company was launching a new, exciting product during the pandemic and we had to make sure this launch was a successful one, all while virtual! As you can guess, the activity of an agency is markedly different during lockdown life however, we still managed to create hype and excitement pre-launch by working with embargoes, instead of events. We also reached out to journalists over calls instead of friendly in-person coffee dates to build relationships and share news. Despite not having the dazzle of parties, the campaign launch was hugely successful, achieving incredible coverage and it was an all-around great experience. 

I must admit that I have enjoyed the past year, and as things have started to get back to some semblance of normal, I’ve really enjoyed all the things that come with that too. We have already had team drinks at REAL bars with journalists and it was great to finally meet reporters face to face, after months of virtual communication. We’ve also had team bowling which was a bonding experience that brought out our competitive streaks and our pumpkin carving Halloween party was one for the books too. 

From my personal perspective, I feel like people make an industry and all the marketers, PRs and reporters I’ve met tend to be on the social side. There will certainly be things we have learnt as an industry over these past two years that work, and some agencies may adopt a hybrid style of work or have more virtual events moving forward (which many journalists greatly appreciate by the way). It’s no secret that COVID has shaped business across the sectors as a whole, but I believe the industry will return to its previous sociable practices because that’s half the fun of working in PR! 

Megan Colman
Megan Colman