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 Dr. Ann Torres Head of Marketing Discipline, J.E. Cairnes School of Business & Economics National University of Ireland Galway


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

The outbreak of the pandemic has resulted in tremendous change in the higher education sector. In March 2020, we had to respond quickly and consider how best to support students who cannot come on campus, to ensure they have a high-quality educational experience. Some colleagues have considerable experience in using technology to support students and they have been generous in helping those colleagues who are less familiar with using technology to deliver academic modules. Regarding online learning, we have seen ‘decades in days development’. More importantly, we are still learning, sharing, and striving to improve.

How have you been engaging with your team?

Our teams meet primarily online, as it’s not safe to meet in person. We’ve been using various platforms, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, WebEx to conduct meetings. WhatsApp and email are also relevant to engage with team members. Leveraging technology has been important in ensuring we communicate in delivering projects. We’re aware many colleagues have caring responsibilities for family members. Hence, we are a bit more flexible as to how and when we work. Fortunately, academia is not typically a nine to five occupation, so we’re comfortable with this flexibility.

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

The pandemic has presented us with an opportunity to explore how best optimise the use of technology to support students in their learning. And that’s been exciting. It’s been challenging and we’ve had to move swiftly. It given us an opportunity to re-evaluate how we conduct our business and ensure we make best use of the online ‘face’ time we have with colleagues and students. Regarding academic modules there have been an increasing use of a flipped classroom approach, where students prepare material for ‘in-class’ discussion and exercises. Indeed, it’s encouraged more creativity in the online class-room.

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

I expect we would be using flipped classroom more frequently. An exciting development is the creation of learning technologist posts to assist academic in delivering their modules effectively. I believe the integration of online education in our business permanent, as it’s about using technology to support students’ learning. I anticipate many meetings will be held online or allowing people to participate online, if they physically cannot attend meetings. Online meetings are more convenient for many people. Indeed, we’ve seen an uptick in attendance in larger meetings that would normally be difficult for most people to attend.

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

I believe NUI Galway’s brand is resilient. What’s important is that the University acts in a responsible manner to safeguard the health and well-being of students, staff and the wider community. The pandemic has prompted us to respond as promptly and in an open and flexible manner. In this respect, collaboration and communication is critically important for our brand.

What brands or businesses have you admired through the crisis?

Certain sectors of the economy are doing quite well; for example, any business that supports the home economy. Hence, warehousing, delivery, grocery stores, fast food are experiencing an uptick in their business. Services, such as restaurants, pubs, salons, and retailers are having a tough time, as their operations are limited by health regulations. However, many of these businesses have responded in innovative ways to allow to operate at some level. I really admire that kind of openness and creative thinking. Further, once restrictions are eased, these businesses tend to bounce back. Business that will have difficulty in the medium and longer terms, are those involved in tourism, hospitality, travel, and the arts.