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 Jackie Brannigan, Director of Marketing at Matheson.


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

The last time I saw my team in person was 12 March. However, thanks to our IT infrastructure, support teams and Agile Working Programme we quickly mobilised to work remotely and securely from home literally overnight.

The first couple of weeks were spent adjusting our marketing plans applying a virtual lens, realigning what we needed to prioritise to support the business, understanding what marketing formats required change, what capacity was available and what skill sets were required. We had to quickly switch to working virtually across different departments to realign our planning and execution across a myriad of initiatives including our internal communications programmes, our client networking events and our firm thought leadership programmes taking into consideration the environment we are now living and doing business in.

For example, we had planned a year-long Brexit thought leadership campaign and so far we have successfully run two of three planned events albeit virtually with very strong engagement from our target audiences. We have also continued promoting a series of digital articles and client outreaches. In fact our ability to transition from a hybrid campaign model to one that is 100% virtual or digital has allowed us increase the scope, reach and engagement opportunity between our clients and ourselves. We have received very good feedback directly from clients and we will continue with our ‘adjusted’ campaign model for the rest of this year and into 2021.

Another example I’d like to share relates to the approach taken with our internal communication campaigns, as the new operating environment necessitated a complete gear shift in terms of the manner and / or the channel through which messaging has had to be delivered. Similar to other firms, ongoing communication at a time like this is very important for employees and whilst we have seen strong engagement with our communications – video in particular has been a very welcome format. Not only did it help in delivering the right message tone, it helped simplify messaging and brought a more human element to the respective communication – this is something we have had to consider given the size of the firm, our social fabric and least not we forget new people joining us. Video is definitely a format we will continue to invest in to support internal communications for the foreseeable future.


How have you been engaging with your team?

First and foremost I am very proud of my team – they have produced amazing work from their homes even though each of us have different surroundings and daily challenges. My team have remained focused on the value that they can bring to the firm, our clients and our colleagues. We have several means of communication and use a number of tools to enable this i.e. phone, video, text, MS Teams, Skype etc. We have a dedicated weekly team meeting to keep us all aligned and then splinter meetings depending on what’s happening. We’ve also had numerous social gatherings via Zoom such as cocktails, birthday celebrations, yoga and various quizzes – sometimes with other departments to drive a bit of competition or just for the chats to say hi!.


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

I think from a pragmatic perspective having the ability and agility to scale up or down at a sustained pace is a major learning. The other key learning I would take away is ‘upskilling’ and ‘continuous learning’ – we all have a responsibility to try and be innovative and find new ways of doing things, whilst staying true to our brand. However it does take a collaborative and supportive approach to get that balance right.

I think the past six months have also made me reassess with perspective how campaigns have been planned and executed, and the role scenario planning around initiatives needs to play to arrive at the most appropriate outcome for our clients and business.

Finally I would advise all marketing professionals to get to know their alternative marketing channels and formats, how these support the overall marketing strategy and which are the most appropriate for the target audience – you may end up using more of these formats than you originally thought! As obvious as it may appear, you may need to create various pieces of collateral required to support these activities [whilst everyone is still working remotely] – which is not easy especially when you have to consider other virtual internal and external campaigns running at the same time.


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

Our work practices have changed – from being office based where you could have informal and casual catch ups to now having more structure and planning rigour applied to our initiative discussions and activation activities. Working remotely, you are relying on everyone on the team to adopt this change at the same time, something I am delighted to say that my team have adjusted to very well.

As we plan for 2021 I want to see more time in our planning schedule allocated to ideation and development. This is something we enjoyed when in person together, hearing the different viewpoints and exploring how an idea suggested by one person could take on a life of its own when shared amongst the team. So now we need to bring it into the virtual world even if we still need to attach some planning rigour.


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

I think brand purpose has been challenged within businesses in general. At Matheson our purpose continues to be centred on servicing the legal needs of internationally focused companies and financial institutions doing business in and from Ireland. From the start of this pandemic, our core values of partnership, respect, innovation, diversity and entrepreneurship have continued to characterise our collective dynamic as a firm. Our values and purpose have continued to remain core within all of our client and people focused initiatives. For example when I reflect on the number of targeted virtual events we have run over the past six months, covering topics of interest to clients from an international and domestic perspective, none of this would have happened had we not worked collaboratively and in partnership with our colleagues and clients.