“Are you insane?”
It wasn’t the most inspiring response we’ve ever had from a national newspaper journalist to one of our press releases, particularly since it was an announcement about our latest staff appointment at Jersey Road PR: me.
Gareth (our MD) and I snorted with laughter when we saw it – partly out of bravado that we were taking a leap of faith against the odds… but partly, if we’re honest, tinged with a teeny edge of terror that he might be right.
It was April 2020, and just a few weeks earlier the nation had sat in collective disbelief as the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson announced the end to our way of life as we knew it. Stay at home.
Businesses pulled down the shutters in more ways than one. Friends of mine who had accepted new positions with much larger organisations had their job offers retracted. It felt like the whole world was shrinking in fear.
I wondered whether the new job I had just been offered, to help develop a small PR agency, would still exist – but Gareth stuck to his guns and told me that he still wanted to go ahead.
I knew that the timing of my appointment meant I wouldn’t be eligible for the furlough scheme if the business couldn’t sustain me, but I believed in Jersey Road PR’s vision of giving voice, profile and influence to faith-based organisations, and I took the job anyway.
By the time I logged on to my first Zoom meeting, the decision was already proving not to be as mad as it first appeared.
Many of the charities and organisations we work with exist to support the people in our society in most need of help. It soon became abundantly clear that this need was going to be very great.
As the initial shock wore off, we started to receive requests for PR support at a rate that our tiny agency had never experienced, with charities and newly-formed coalitions asking for our help to speak out on behalf of their beneficiaries and raise support for the huge amount of work they needed to do.
And the calls have just kept coming. Since I arrived, we’ve taken more leaps of faith, and hired another six team members across the UK and Australia to meet our clients’ needs.
It’s been a year now, and I can’t quite believe that I still haven’t met the team. For those of us who don’t live near the office, the plan has always been that we would travel in for regular team days – but these haven’t yet been possible.
So I have no idea what height my colleagues are, or how they take their coffee, and they don’t really know whether I have legs. But we’ve built a strong bond through our shared experience of working together through the most strange, stressful, isolating and sometimes downright devastating time in our lives.
In this odd world of relationships developed though a mosaic on screen, we’ve worked extra hard to make sure we can have fun together, but also feel safe enough to be open about when we’re having a hard day. It’s become a standing joke that you’re only really part of the Jersey Road team when you’ve cried at your colleagues over Zoom.
While it’s been difficult in a myriad of ways, we’ve come through the past year all the stronger for it. We’ve got an incredible team, who care passionately about the work our clients do and have worked doggedly and determinedly through a global pandemic to help them communicate it well.
We haven’t taken any of this for granted, and we still don’t. The road ahead is likely to be very challenging for both businesses and charities, and we know we can’t rest on our laurels.
But were we insane to keep investing in our vision? A year in, I’m going to take a leap of faith and say no.
Generating positive word-of-mouth communication often feels as elusive as creating the next “viral” video. It’s not something that can be created, it has to be organic. Wrong. Here are three simple steps to encouraging people to start talking about your organisation.