The year 2020 has been dominated by one thing. It’s been in all the headlines and affected everyone’s day to day lives. The one thing is, of course, Covid-19, or the Coronavirus pandemic. It’s safe to say that it has had huge and wide-ranging effects on all sorts of industries. Some of these have been positive changes, such as working from home opening up more doors for flexible working and a better work-life balance. However, other effects have been overwhelmingly negative, such as businesses being forced to close for months on end, from which some simply may not recover. In today’s article, we’ll be looking at five interesting ways the post Covid business landscape might change the creative sector specifically, in 2021 and beyond.
What are the five interesting ways the post Covid business landscape might change the creative sector?
Running a creative business such as an agency brings its fair share of challenges at the best of times, but it can also be incredibly rewarding. However, following 2020, 2021 is the year where things will start to settle down, but probably not in the ways that we are used to. What challenges and opportunities will the creative sector be facing as we head into the new year? While it’s impossible to accurately predict what might happen, certain trends and predictions have emerged over the past few months about the changes that we might be seeing. Let’s take a closer look at some of them:
1. Will the creative sector be continuing with new ways of working into 2021?
Before the pandemic hit, many companies believed that employees working together in an office space was completely necessary for doing their jobs and everything running smoothly. However, the forced working from home that happened in mid-March has proven that this is really not the case for plenty of sectors and industries. Many people are of the opinion that this is the case for the creative sector as well. However, I have to disagree with this point. Unless you’re already well established as a remote business, most creative agencies need high levels of communication between different members of the team, in order to carry out their work to the best of their ability. This often means that there is a huge level of communication between the team each day. Whether this is meetings about new projects, or simply dropping by a colleague's desk to ask for an opinion on a piece of design work, it’s undeniable that this communication is central to running a creative agency. And, remote working has taken a lot of these touchpoints away. It’s a lot of extra work to keep up high levels of communication when everyone is working from home. While it is possible, it is certainly not ideal for most creative businesses which thrive in a team environment. Problems can also arise when half of the team are working from home and half are in the studio. This is an issue that a few of my clients are currently experiencing. It can be hard to make those who are working remotely feel as big a part of the team, and it definitely doesn’t aid communication between different areas of the business.
While I think that more working from home will take place in the creative sector, for example one day per week for each team member, I also think that the mass move to remote working is a part of the post Covid business landscape that’s actually not best suited for the creative industry. While remote working is definitely here to stay, I don’t think that it will be a trend that sticks around for creative businesses in the long run. This is because it is just not a sustainable way of working for these businesses that thrive off communication and integrated teamwork.
2. An more agile approach to client servicing has arisen from the pandemic
Despite the last point, there are plenty of other, more positive interesting ways in which the post Covid landscape might change the creative sector. When running a creative agency, you’ve got to have a strong focus on client servicing to even be able to survive. Your clients are expecting something from you, and if you can’t deliver it, they will simply move on to the next agency that can. On the whole, this is something that businesses in the creative sector tend to do really well. They aim to please their clients, and often go above and beyond what’s expected to achieve this result. Having said this, there is always more room for innovation when it comes to client servicing. I think that it will be important for creative businesses to look at how the new ways of working forced upon them by Covid can also offer a more agile way of working with clients. For example, if some employees are working from home, could they set their own hours so that they are working when they feel most productive? This could be earlier in the morning or later at night. Not only does this increase employee satisfaction, but it also gives your clients more opportunities to work with you at times that are equally convenient for them! By introducing initiatives that add extra value to clients, they are more likely to be satisfied with your working relationship and remain loyal clients into the future.
Agencies also need to look at how pitching for new clients is made tricky by new ways of working and restrictions, and how they can overcome this. For example, pitching usually involved travelling to the client and talking to them face-to-face. However, travel budgets have been majorly cut back or completely removed by many businesses. Pitching remotely is hard, as you can no longer rely on subtle cues such as body language and gestures, and use these to tailor your pitch to the mood of the client. Instead, agencies need to look at how they can improve the remote pitching process and still delight and impress their clients, even when they can’t meet face-to-face.
3. The creative sector and its relationships with the local community
If there has been one major positive to come out of Covid, it's definitely a wider focus on the community. And, this is becoming more and more apparent in the business community, which is why it is next on the list of interesting ways the post Covid business landscape might change the creative sector.
While people have not been able to get together physically, the pandemic has definitely brought communities closer. They’ve pulled together to support vulnerable people, raise money for those in need, and lift each other's spirits during what has been an incredibly tough year. This community spirit will definitely translate to the business landscape, and the creative sector will likely have its fair share of community initiatives in place. Whether it’s offering your creative service to a charity in need, or holding a fundraiser to raise awareness and money for those in your community, this sort of Corporate Social Responsibility is on the rise. And, the creative sector will need to keep up if they want to ensure that their community has a favourable view of them.
There are plenty of ways in which CSR can be incorporated into your creative agency, or any other type of business for that matter. Whether you choose to directly support your local community, or raise money for a cause that is close to your heart, the only thing that matters is that you are showing your support for those around you, even when times are tough for you as well. CSR is likely to become an even bigger trend in business than it already is, so it’s a good idea to start planning your CSR strategy for 2021 and beyond if you want to stay ahead of the game in the post Covid business landscape and how it might change the creative sector.
4. It’s important for everyone in the creative sector to come together
It’s completely undeniable that 2020 has been a tough year for everyone in business. We’ve all had to navigate new challenges, with no idea about when things might get back to ‘normal’, or at least something recognisable as the way we worked before! While there has been plenty of challenges, some good has come out of the Covid business landscape as well. There has definitely been a feeling of community spirit for most industries, not just the creative sector! People have come together to support each other in any way they can. Whether this is just lending a friendly listening ear, sharing useful information, or just being there for each other, this renewed sense of community spirit is hopefully here to stay.
Existing agency groups such as Agency Hackers, The Agency Collective, and DBA (Design Business Association) do an excellent job of supporting people in the creative sector. And I personally have seen quite a few creative agencies come together and set up their own support groups, even though they are competitors. It would be great if initiatives like this could continue as we enter the post Covid business landscape. After all, it’s always reassuring to know that people are in the same boat as you, and understand what challenges you are facing in a difficult landscape.
5. Embracing the ‘new normal’ will be of paramount importance for businesses that want to thrive in the post Covid business landscape
The ‘new normal’ is a phrase that everyone is sick of hearing about by now. But, when it comes to interesting ways the post Covid business landscape might change the creative sector, it’s definitely something that can’t be ignored. What the ‘new normal’ means for different businesses will vary hugely between sectors and individual businesses. Whether it’s moving your whole operation online, embracing the permanence of Zoom meetings, shifting your products and services to better suit the post Covid world, or something completely different, it’s vital not to get stuck in the old ways of doing things. In 2021 and beyond, it’s important for the creative sector to recognise that their clients and other businesses they work with are going to be permanently adopting new ways of working. The ‘new normal’ will look different for all of us. So, creative businesses need to think about how they will adapt to their clients’ versions of the ‘new normal’. This is so they can continue to provide outstanding creative services and exceed client expectations. And, it also comes back to the troubles with pitching remotely. Agencies will need to figure out how they can present work effectively to their clients, who may be working on a more remote basis than them. I would always recommend keeping the lines of communication open and really getting to know the clients you work with, in order to better understand their needs and how these may change in the months and years ahead.
It’s clear that there are many interesting ways the post Covid business landscape might change the creative sector. Truly, nobody can possibly predict exactly what is going to happen as we enter 2021, for any sector or business. However, the best thing that any business can do, whether they are in the creative sector or not, is embrace the positive changes that are sure to come along with the negative, in order to build innovative businesses that thrive and are able to withstand tough periods.
If you’re a busy creative agency owner who’s looking for support and guidance to navigate tough challenges like the post Covid business landscape, please get in touch with me today. I’m an experienced agency board-level director with more than twenty five years of experience in the creative industry, so I know the kind of challenges, unique to this sector, that you might be facing. Whatever your needs may be, I would love to hear from you and discuss how I can support your future plans!