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“Look Ma, No Hands!” Digital Marketing During COVID-19

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2020
digital marketing during COVID-19

Sarah Clark

Content & Brand Strategy – Media Relations – Social Media Manager

This is the first installation of Pandemic Soundbites, where the Staff members of UCI Digital share their unique experiences with working remotely as a team and adapting to a new world of digital marketing during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

I’m no stranger to working remotely. One of my first jobs out of college was working for a startup: a real-time navigation app that was eventually bought out by Google. I learned how to structure my time, plan out my breaks, and create a separate space within my home to operate out of during the hours of 9 to 5. 

So, when the first coronavirus case in Amarillo was made public and we were sent home to work remotely, I already knew what to do in terms of work. But nothing prepares you for the surreal reality of working from home during a pandemic. I have had to rethink everything I thought I knew about digital marketing during COVID-19.

You’re in the comfort of your own home, but you’re suddenly facing a whole new kind of stress…..and digital marketing in itself IS a stressful, fast-paced job. All the rules you know about your job and clients have changed overnight, and you’re faced with a new frontier. 

Shockingly, only a few of our clients opted to pause their accounts so far. I’ve heard the horror stories from my other colleagues who work in the marketing field, client after client pulling their contracts, followed by an inevitable company furlough. It’s remarkable how we have held on to our clients….or have they held onto us? Maybe we hold on to each other….I suspect as much to be true, considering that most of our clients are restaurants. 

Restaurants need to be tough

Right now, with COVID-19 swirling around us, restaurants are so vulnerable. But the last four weeks have shown me exactly how tough the pioneer spirit can be here in the Texas panhandle, restaurant owners in particular. You can’t afford to be vulnerable in a place where the wind and sun show no mercy. You either stand up and find a way, or “to dust thou shalt return”. 

A good example: When the shutdown orders were issued, Dyer’s BBQ was one of the first restaurants here in Amarillo to spin on their heel and adapt to takeout and delivery orders. The owners made the message clear: they weren’t leaving their employees without a way to feed their families. No way, no how.

Now? Their employees are busy as bees with citywide and curbside delivery, and the Dyers themselves make special deliveries to one of the surrounding areas of Amarillo four days a week. I work tirelessly to promote everything they do on social media, pass valuable information between the store and customers, and survey the landscape for any sign of change.

The premise of this partnership is simple: “If they make it, we make it.

There are no more rules in digital marketing

Social media is the final frontier at this moment of time. And digital marketers like myself are finding that there is beauty to be had in the chaos of this side of the pandemic.

I’ve seen some of our most successful digital marketing campaigns take place in the last few weeks, while the rest of the world is seemingly crashing down around us. I’ve explored a side of my own creativity and innovation and honed my professional skills to a sharp edge. I feel better now about what my team can do than ever before. What does this say about the future of our clients? Of my agency? 

I don’t know.

That is the defining aspect of this pandemic: uncertainty. 

This pandemic. This freakin’ pandemic. 

Growing closer while still far apart

My co-workers and our clients have all seen different sides of each other throughout this pandemic. From the restaurants to the non-profits, from phone calls to chat messages, the conversations are marked by the same undercurrent of apprehension and uncertainty. But they’re also laced with a personal tone that is warm and genuine.

Now? When we ask “how are you holding up?” we mean it. And they answer honestly. Then they ask the same question of us. And we answer honestly. Then we get down to business.

I’ve never encountered these instances of candid and nuanced conversations before in the workplace. But even with the literal distance that lies between us, the interpersonal bonds that tie us together grow stronger with each passing day. This I know. 

If I had to choose between working from home and from the office, I’d choose to work from the office. I like the change of scenery, and the days don’t seem to slip by so quickly. But if I have to work from home, it might as well be at a time like this. Never before has working from home offered such a potential for human connection for clients and co-workers alike. It’s not too cliche to say that “we are all in this together”. 

I don’t know where we will go from here as a culture; as a nation; as an industry. But I do know that this pandemic will forever alter the fabric of our lives. There is no forgetting any of the lessons learned and trials we have weathered together during these plague years.

Who Wrote This?Sarah Clark

Sarah Clark has been with UCI Digital since October 2018 as a content writer, brand strategist, and social media manager. She studied Communications of Amarillo College and the University of Texas at Austin. She is a journalist at heart, mother of a Snack Monster, and is full of pop culture trivia and factoids. She also left her favorite pen in the office and eagerly awaits the day they can be reunited.