Hanson Search talks to Michael Kambeck, Partner at BOLDT Germany on the impact of Covid-19
Welcome to our ‘Getting Business Back’ series, where we talk to industry leaders from agency and inhouse backgrounds about the impact of COVID-19 on their businesses and the steps they are taking as we move out of the crisis. Here, we sat down (virtually) with Michael Kambeck, Partner, BOLDT.
What impact has COVID-19 had on your business? And what impact has it had on your sector as a whole?
Uncertainty is never good for business and COVID-19 has created a tonne of uncertainties. As a result many companies, especially B2B clients, have delayed new projects and larger corporate campaigns until there is more certainty regarding the recent increase in cases of COVID-19.
That said, at BOLDT, we have not seen a slowdown in our political and public affairs work.
Laws are still being made and businesses still need to engage with politicians. It's been amazing to see political stakeholders, who would have never agreed to a phone conversation before COVID-19, now having online meetings on Google Meets or Zoom. They're engaging with companies in this way now as if it was the most natural thing on the planet. And of course, not surprisingly, there has also been an increase in businesses needing help with crisis communications.
Luckily at BOLDT, we are doing well and in fact, had a record year in 2020. We opened new offices in Germany and the UK and have made several recent hires to strengthen our team.
As a result of COVID-19 organisations have had to move faster than ever before to problem solve and navigate the crisis. How has this pushed your organisation and industry forward positively and which of those measures taken would you like to remain in place post pandemic?
The biggest change is that people perceive talking to each other through a screen as natural now. I wouldn't call it a new technical tool because it's been there for years, but people haven't been using it. Maybe the most repeated sentence of 2020 was “you‘re on mute!“
Which of your values/your companies values has truly come to life since the beginning of this crisis?
One of BOLDT’s key values is perseverance, which has been tested given we work across borders and offices everyday. During the COVID-19 crisis we have really come together, even more strongly, and our seamless cross border collaboration has seriously intensified to the benefit of our clients.
Internal communication has never been more business critical. How has your business engaged with its employees and what changes in culture has it resulted in?
During the first lockdown everyone worried about what was happening. We wanted to do something positive and so we supported the "Stay in, reach out!" campaign. Everyone filmed themselves in their home office and we put together a video asking people to stay in but to reach out to people who were in need. I think in 2020 we grew together as everyone was experiencing the same situation, which brought us closer together - both personally and professionally.
What challenges have you faced leading people remotely and how have you had to adapt your style?
Internally, there wasn’t so much change, as we regularly work through video calls given our international network. I think the bigger change was with the outside world. It has now become easier to work with external clients and service providers using Google Docs and other tools, which were only partially acceptable before. Previously clients would send you an email with an attachment and then would ask you to have a phone call. Now we can work on the same document, which is so much faster and much more efficient.
Are there any businesses you feel have communicated particularly well during the crisis?
I think the biggest trend in corporate communications we have seen was that companies had a reflex to cut budgets during the crisis. I understand, if you are in the finance department and you‘re asked to save money, you cut back on external resources quickly, send freelancers home and cut marketing budgets. But this is a strategic mistake, as by cutting back on communications, you’re not going to help your bottom line in the coming 12 months.
As companies move from reacting to mitigating the impact of the outbreak, what is your strategy to move forward over the coming months?
Luckily for us we are in a good position and we expect quite a strong growth in 2021, especially in Q2 or Q3. We are getting ready for this time and we're advising our clients to do the same. For example, in Germany we have actually shifted some resources into marketing. We have created #BOLDTalk, a social media format to discuss communications and political hot topics. We made this investment to reach out to people in the industry and to brand ourselves. We chose to invest money in this area because we expect that in the middle of 2021, business activities will pick up.
What do you feel are the major communications challenges once the recovery begins?
For businesses who wait to start communicating with current/potential clients, there will likely be an oversaturation in the PR and marketing market in June or July. This is because if everyone starts at the same time we will have exactly the opposite situation that we had in the first lockdown, this time with a crowded communications market. In my view it’s better to get going a bit earlier. Businesses waiting for the first growth statistics and/or an upswing in the labour market will most likely have missed the starting gun.