Pivoting a PR strategy to showcase frontline workers during the pandemic

By Kathryn Cleaver on Wednesday, 18 November 2020

When the first national lockdown was announced on March 23rd the UK came to a standstill. Unlike anything anyone had ever experienced there was an overwhelming sense of the unknown which spread across the country.

For one of our clients, Audley Villages, a luxury retirement living provider, the spread of the pandemic presented perhaps an even more difficult set of challenges. While we were all still travelling to and from work before lockdown, going to the pub, out for dinner, Audley had taken the decisive move to shut all 19 villages down. The property owners who live in Audley Villages are all aged above 55 which means they’re more susceptible to being vulnerable to the virus. Audley had to get on the front foot and that they did.

As this happened, we pivoted our PR strategy. We wanted to showcase the amazing work that was happening at every single Audley village and deliver much needed ‘good news stories’ to the national and consumer media.

We had carers become hairdressers, village team members take property owners on socially distanced walks around the villages as they were unable to see friends or family, planned exercise classes from owner balconies, virtual coffee mornings and iPad support sessions to help people stay connected with loved ones. We even had members of Head Office heading out to Waitrose to do weekly shops for those who couldn’t get out. These were the stories we wanted to tell.

We spoke to the Metro about incredibly dedicated Audley carers working in the villages and local communities while raising money for charity, we profiled personal trainers running virtual Zoom classes and children sewing mask ear protectors for care workers on BBC News and we even showcased the Audley Redwood lockdown bar! Cocktails delivered to the doorstep was a winner all round. And, we also achieved national coverage in The Guardian for the Audley pen pal scheme which connected owners and local school children. Thanks to Summer, one of the team’s daughters for that wonderful idea.

No one could have predicted what 2020 had in store. Property pages, which are our usual haunts, were cut from the nationals and we had to adapt. The pandemic, and impact to our villages, made us switch to a new PR newsroom approach, targeting completely different journalists and with brand new ideas. It was a real opportunity.

Speak to anyone on the Audley account and they’ll tell you that the pandemic has shone a light on what it is really like to live in a retirement village, the community, the support and numerous benefits. While it’s still early days, the infection rate has remained incredibly low and owners have been supported and kept safe. Being able to tell just some of the incredible stories of the incredible people who have cared and supported owners, friends, loved ones, and strangers through a hugely unsettling time helped us all deal with lockdown too.

And as we make our way through our second lockdown it feels a little less unknown and we’ll be ready to share the stories of the people doing everything they can to keep those who are vulnerable as safe as possible, both physically and mentally.

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