In uncertain times, it is more important than ever to share experience, insights and advice with your peers so we can all learn from one another. With this in mind, we are having conversations with members across various sectors to understand how themselves and their teams have been coping with the COVID-19 pandemic, what they have learned from it and how they continue helping their customers.

For this week’s instalment in the series we’ve chatted to Geraldine O’Leary, Group Head of Commercial at RTÉ.


MII: Hi Geraldine, can you tell us about how have you been adapting your marketing activities during the COVID-19 outbreak?

At an organisational level, I am very proud of how RTE has adapted to engaging with our audience and how our content across all platforms is successfully reflecting the unprecedented situation the nation, and the world, find ourselves in. We have introduced new programmes and new initiatives to reflect what is going on right now for the Irish population. We are encouraging the audience to interact with us in new and different ways, including sending us their own content to showcase how we as a nation are currently living our lives. I think one of the key successes is how quickly we have reacted to adjust our content and, most importantly, how we have got the tone of our communication right for the audience.

That is what all brands are trying to do currently – and it has never been more important to ensure we are all communicating in an appropriate tone.


How have you been engaging with your team?

It is incredible how quickly we went from being all office based to remote working – with huge help from our Technology Department!

It is also interesting how people have adapted so quickly to this new, and completely changed, situation. Like everyone else, we are relying on Teams, Zoom etc to do our business – and have all of our regular meetings virtually.

I think every one of us has had days when we wish we are all back in the office, but, overall, the transition has been pretty seamless.


What have you learned from a marketing perspective from COVID 19?

We are lucky enough to interact with a broad range of brands and clients in diverse categories and I think the interesting thing is the varying strategies that have been adopted.

For me, and I would say this, the smart clients are the ones who realise the importance of keeping their brand alive in the current climate. Obviously, this is easier for some categories than others, and we have to respect that. But within categories, it is interesting to observe different approaches in relation to continuing brand support. What will be most interesting is the long term effect of these varying strategies. We will watch with interest and assist where we can to deliver for brands over time.


How have your work practices changed? What will you do differently going forward?

As above, I think there has been a fundamental physical shift as people, who have always been office based, work remotely.

Meetings have become more efficient – and more polite (!) as people genuinely respect the mute button and speaking only when appropriate. I am hopeful this behaviour will continue!

There has always been a great team spirit among the Commercial team at RTE and this has been hugely evident over the last few weeks, as people ​pulled together at a time of unprecedented change to react to and deliver on client and agency requirements. I am confident that this will not change.

Recent revenue trends have necessitated that we think in an innovative way, particularly around TV Spot, where we have capacity at present. We are working creatively with brands to explore ways to bring brands to TV in new and different ways. We are also looking at new and different approaches to client investment across other areas of our business.

More to come on this!


Has your brand purpose been challenged by COVID 19? How?

Our purpose as a Commercial Department is to maximise commercial revenue for RTE . This has remained consistent, although, by definition, the conversations with clients and agencies tend to be short term in nature, with less emphasis on the longer term sustainability of business and investment . We are very much based in the “now”, although it is amazing how things change so quickly week on week. The conversations we were having in mid March are, in most cases, very different from the ones we are having today.

Clearly, we are doing everything we can to maximise revenue for RTE, while providing clients with what they need from us right now. We are also working hard to find creative solutions for clients who need to react and behave differently in this topsy turvy world!


What brands or businesses have you admired through this crisis?

I am reticent to name individual clients ( I love them all equally!) but, in general, I admire all brands who have reacted quickly to change their messaging to reflect the mood and psychological mindset of their consumers.

And obviously, I hugely admire those clients who have continued to recognise the value of supporting their brands during a recession – and appreciate that this is the correct strategy for long term sustainability. And again, I would say that, wouldn’t I?!