Adapting Business to COVID-19 & Going ‘Virtual’

The current global health crisis has caused a seismic shift in the way people are going about their day-to-day lives. Naturally, many businesses are still concerned that they will become lost in the pandemic and are looking at ways of adapting their business to COVID-19.

Most people will never have had to perform in the way they have in recent months, looking at work and their business in new ways in an drive to keep themselves and their aspirations alive, relevant and deliverable in the current climate.

At Bird Consultancy we are no different and have been putting our minds together and planning out how we, and our clients, are adapting business to COVID and the world as it is today, to keep the ball rolling and come out on the other side relatively unscathed.

Given that the majority of us are still in some form of lockdown (June 2020), one way has been the rise of the ‘virtual’ world.

Zoom or Team s have rapidly become a familiar work (and social) action, and with many of our events, communications and activities moving to the virtual world

Here are just a few of the ways Bird and our clients  have been adapting business to COVID. If you are looking to make similar changes to your brand or business in these most unusual times, hopefully you will find something here that will give you some much-needed inspiration:

The Running Bee Foundation

When the Tour of Tameside had to be postponed because of the pandemic, the decision was made to adapt to the times, as opposed to run from them, and create a ‘virtual’ alternative which people could complete in their own time, however and wherever they liked. Thus, the Virtual Tour of Tameside was born! Thanks to a helping hand of PR, Social and Design work from the Bird team, the new virtual event generated a lot of interest and hundreds of entries from runners in the local community who were keen to keep to their fitness plans and achieve their running goals, even if it was virtually!

The Virtual Grand National

The Grand National has been the pinnacle of horse racing events for almost 200 years now. Every year thousands of people in-person, and millions watching around the world on television, flock to Aintree Racecourse to see which steed and jockey will be named champions.

But the 2020 coronavirus pandemic threw a massive spanner in the works for outdoor events and mass gatherings worldwide, which left the future of the Grand National in serious doubt. Thankfully, there was an alternative already waiting in the wings…

The Virtual Grand National, which had been broadcast on ITV4 since 2017, is a computerised simulation of the actual race designed to predict the most-likely winner using a series of algorithms and probability coding.

Previously the race correctly predicted Tiger Roll to emerge victorious in 2018 and chose three of the top five finishers in the 2019 edition, which gave the world a very good indication of its impeccable accuracy.

With outdoor events of this scale off limits, the Virtual Grand National catapulted into prime position to become the year’s biggest and most-watched sporting event, even if it wasn’t an actual sporting event at all!

The event peaked at a whopping 4.8 million viewers, and raised £2.6million for NHS Charities. The build-up to the event in the form of online advertising and social media promotion reached an incredible 20 million people overall.

Bird have been involved with the unique concept since its inception and we were so proud to be a part of its success in 2020 – a prime example of adapting business to COVID, offering people a very welcome distraction from the doom and gloom of daily news.

Our efforts in boosting social media views and interaction with The Virtual Grand National in the lead-up to the event, as well as managing the full media campaign and countless press enquiries, helped the virtual event reach the massive stage it otherwise may not have reached this time around.

What about your events? Your business? Your brand?  Can you create a ‘virtual’ version of something you had in the pipeline, and does it have the potential to have the same (if not greater) impact than the original, much like the Virtual Grand National?

Look closely at your assets, what you have to work with, and think outside the box. Utilise your following and social media and get to work at creating something that works with the times we’re in, as opposed to hiding from them.

Quest Media Network

A real home-grown success story, Bird became involved with Quest Media Network when our CEO Chris Bird became its chairman last year. Our intention was simple: To rebuild the network from the ground-up and create a local news brand that excited people and made them want to engage with what was going on in their local community.

Over the course of several months, Bird took charge of overhauling the Quest website, radio station (Tameside Radio) and newspapers (Tameside Reporter, Oldham Reporter, Glossop Chronicle) bringing their appearance, format and designs back to life. On top of this, we also worked on the promotion and organisation of the official re-launch event which was a tremendous success.

But life in local news and radio became much more difficult when the virus hit, and the teams at Bird and Quest had to act fast in order to keep people receiving the local entertainment and news that mattered most to them.

As it turns out, people aren’t exactly desperate to head to the shops solely for a newspaper in the middle of a pandemic lockdown. No surprises there! So instead of people heading out for a paper, Bird brought the paper and the local news to them…

As an alternative to the traditional newspaper, Bird created a virtual newspaper – totally digitised editions of Quest’s flagship publications, showing off the very best in local editorial efforts in a completely fresh and vibrant way. The new format even kept to the aesthetic of traditional papers, allowing you to ‘turn the pages’ on whatever device you were reading from, for an added bit of realism!

This new format proved to be exceptionally popular for readers of the papers, as well as visitors to the site, which quickly experienced a boom in visitor numbers. On average, QuestMediaNetwork.co.uk has begun generating a staggering 850,000 per month, a 400% increase over previous months.

It just goes to show that, even in adapting business to COVID and dealing with current events, there are still ways to keep people engaged by making the most of both the old and the new.

If you have a website that’s been suffering in a loss of visitor numbers in recent weeks, could Quest Media Network’s example be something you could look to make your own? What new ‘hook’ can you give your visitors that will keep them coming back, and keep new ones rolling in?

LiveBetterVirtual

One aspect of business life that has suffered greatly as a result of the coronavirus pandemic is conferences and similar business events. Given that they usually involve upwards of 100 people in one space, this was no big surprise.

LiveBetterMCR, an original event created by Bird, was a business conference designed to discuss and debate  wellbeing in the workplace. The conference, held at the Etihad Stadium on October 3rd 2019, was a great success. So much so that plans were in place for a second event in 2020. Alas, as you’ll be aware, plans were forced to suddenly change.

So, what could we do? Should we have just abandoned the momentum we had heading into 2020 and hope the situation improved later in the year, or at the very least in time for 2021? Definitely not, and certainly not at a time when workplace wellbeing is more important than ever, but the workplace and managing teams doesn’t look anything like it used to.

Instead, we chose to focus more on what mattered to people in the world today: Wellbeing whilst working from home; motivating remote teams, looking after physical wellbeing, and how you manage people when we eventually return to the workplace. We shifted our approach from an in-person event to a series of (free) live Webinars over the highly-popular video call platform Zoom.

In doing this we were (and are) still able to keep the brand active and achieve the same goal as a live event; Informing and educating people interested in wellbeing in the workplace (specifically, working from home) while at the same time being open for questions, discussion and comments from the public who were in attendance on the call… all from the safety of our own homes!

We’re very proud of the webinar sessions we’ve been able to host thus far and we’ve got plenty more still to come, with even more top guests and insightful topics. But we aren’t the only ones doing this – businesses all over the world are making use of such platforms as Zoom to take their events totally digital! Are there aspects of your business or the work that you do to reach people you can take online?

Esports

As if gaming wasn’t already popular enough! Now that much of the world is staying at home, many people have re-discovered their passion for video games and online gaming. Naturally, as an extension of this, the Esports industry has experienced a resurgence in both participation and viewership.

Not that Esports needed any kind of helping hand whatsoever; It is still on-course to be one of the most watched sports (and yes, it is a sport) globally by 2021, with a predicted casual viewership of 301 million per year. For comparison, that’s just under the current population of the United States.

In other words, Esports has been taking off and isn’t showing any signs of slowing down! Which is why Bird were thrilled to assist JD in launching their very first Esports team and event, with a collaboration between Bird Innovation (a new Esports & technology venture from Bird) and Innovation Esports, leaders in the Esports realm.

While the coronavirus pandemic hasn’t exactly helped in the organisation of live Esports events with crowds, the nature of Esports and gaming as a whole mean these types of tournaments can happen from anywhere, with all the involved players still able to take part. Because of this, Esports might be the only sport with a considerable audience that hasn’t been forced into hiatus during this time. If anything, the numbers we have show that it’s still growing.

Club La Santa

Club La Santa, one of Bird’s closest clients, is the world’s premier sport & activity resort in Lanzarote and is home to a multitude of sports, equipment and facilities to help enthusiastic holidaymakers experience the very best active holiday imaginable.

But due to the coronavirus, as you’d expect, they’ve been forced to temporarily close their doors to their adoring sporting public, like so many other resorts around the world.

But what makes Club La Santa different from so many other resorts around the world is their dedication to offering their customers ways to stay active and enthusiastic about being active. Which is why they launched their very own series of virtual workout sessions streamed entirely online.

Experienced Club La Santa staff have been taking time out of their own days to give their customers at-home workouts, pilates, spin classes, cardio, you name it! All from the privacy, safety and comfort of their own homes.

Given that the lockdown conditions might mean some of us aren’t getting as much exercise as we’re used to, or as much as is recommended, these classes act as the perfect starting-point for people to work on their stamina, their technique and keep themselves in shape, ready for when Club La Santa finally opens its doors once again.

Freewheel Holidays

Another of Bird’s closest clients, Freewheel Holidays supply avid cyclists, groups of cyclists and families with some of the very best cycling holidays money can buy to some of the top cycling holiday locations in all of Europe.

But seeing as Europe (and the rest of the world) totally froze when the virus hit, so did the cycling holiday market, if only for the time being. But instead of holding off and simply waiting for the day when cyclists could roam free across borders once again, Freewheel doubled-down and decided to stay busy during what could have been a very quiet time.

Steven Rittey, who heads up the cycling holidays and customer relationships at Freewheel, has been delighting followers, customers and guests with a series of group video conferences centered around the world of cycling and cycling holidays.

Bird has been assisting with promoting the sessions on social, which have proven to be a huge hit! A great way to keep the Freewheel brand in the minds of the public and customers until cycling holidays make their long-awaited comeback!

So just because the whole world seems to have been put on hold doesn’t mean that needs to be the case for you entirely – are there aspects of what you do that can continue (or even thrive) during times like these? Examine your offering and be sure to isolate and focus on what will be your key lockdown success story.

Who knows where we are heading once the coronavirus is gone? But one thing we know for certain is that the limitations the pandemic placed on us all should be seen less as “limitations” and more as an opportunity; An opportunity to look at the world, our business and ourselves a little differently, so that we might learn a few new tricks from the challenges we are facing, finding new avenues and opportunities to reach and engage with our customers.

At Bird Consultancy we’re constantly looking to evolve in the face of issues like those we face today, and we recognise there are other people and businesses out there looking to do the same.

If you think we might be able to help you see “the other side” of your brand or need help adapting business to COVID help you shake things up for the better, reach out to us @Birdconsultancy on Twitter or email onawire@birdconsultancy.co.uk today.

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