Ellie Botwood runs independent PR and Marketing consultancy Bot Inc working alongside agencies, production companies and post houses globally. Here, she reflects on the year anniversary of the first UK coronavirus lockdown.
Yesterday marked a year since Boris Johnson announced the (first!) COVID-19 lockdown. It goes without saying, it’s been a challenging year for all of us. But with over half of the UK now having had a first vaccination, hope is on the horizon and spring is well on its way.
Like many people, my work suffered immensely at the start of the pandemic. With agencies and production companies putting the brakes on for the foreseeable future, it left me with barely enough income to cover my rent. It was a very scary and challenging time. Luckily, I managed to push my fear of financial ruin to one side and focus on the present, safe in the knowledge that we were all in the same boat. It would all be OK. Wouldn’t it?
I think we are all in agreement that the production industry wouldn’t have survived without the unfailing support and specialist advice from Steve Davies and his team at the APA. The way they have managed to keep us all going during this time has been nothing short of incredible.
Since the end of the last year Bot Inc has partnered with them in a new PR and Marketing initiative. This package, offered to all new members, includes a free consultation and assistance with PR strategy and planning - an initiative conjured up by Steve’s amazing brain, and one which I embraced with open arms.
It has been a very informative few months for me. The APA now has over 300 members, and each has a very different offering: from natural history to animation, fashion to location services and beyond! Having been in the industry for over 15 years, I thought I knew most companies on the London circuit, so it has been incredibly refreshing to meet all this new talent (and a few familiar old faces!) whilst learning something about their trade. Many of the new members are smaller outfits that are specialists in their field and interestingly, due to their nimble, agile nature, have been able to adapt to the pressures of the pandemic more easily than most.
It’s so nice to meet new people, even if it is online, and one thing I discovered from the many consultancy sessions to date is that whilst we can all work from anywhere (my seaside home included) we prefer to work together, in person. It shows just how crucial human interaction is. Most of the members have said that they miss the organic flow of sharing ideas and how problems are solved with creative solutions (mostly from being down the pub!).
When it came to PR, I came up against the same issues time and again. Many of the companies I spoke with felt overwhelmed by the vast platforms available to them and also didn’t have the time (especially now) to invest in raising their profile. When you can’t physically meet people, promoting yourself online felt like a mammoth task. However, people quickly realised they needed to up their game to remain relevant in the industry at a time where everyone is struggling and fighting for work. But where do you start?
I found that by talking it through, formulating a structure and a clear path really helped navigate where they wanted to get to. There are so many different ways to promote yourself these days but by focusing on one area at a time whether that’s giving your website a refresh, having a social media strategy or writing a profile piece, it all feeds into your brand identity. Once you break it down into chunks, it's easier to digest and then you find you’re much more creative as well. Time poor was another factor that kept cropping up but again, once you have a system in place, it is easier to clarify your thinking and eventually becomes second nature!
Interestingly enough, as we lurch into year two of Covid, there is immense optimism for the next chapter. Companies are planning favourably for the year ahead and, dare I say it, even thinking about events towards the back end of the year. The other thing I’ve noticed is that we are all craving any sort of light relief after the brutally tough and (dare I use that most clichéd phrase) ‘unprecedented times’ we’ve all been through. Whether that’s reflected in our creative work, articles we write, or people we meet. It’s been such an unexpected joy meeting all these new people over the past few months, learning about their craft, creating opportunities for their future and following their progress and growth. It’s been so energizing for me – and, I hope, for them too!
None of us know what the hell is going to happen next, but I do think this is going to be an exciting time for all of us in the production world. We’ll take more risks, we’ll push boundaries, we’ll know what we want and we’ll want more fun. I for one, can’t wait to walk the streets of Soho, bump into old and new friends from the industry, share stories and ideas and celebrate us all being together again.
Julia Frost & Rich Guy, exec producer from Curly: “Starting a new company, It would have been an excellent opportunity in any circumstances to be able to discuss marketing & PR strategy with an expert, this year, emerging from lockdown, it was invaluable. Ellie really helped us shape a PR strategy designed specifically for what is right for our company and our directors.”
Emma Jones, exec producer from Ember Films: “As new members of the APA we were delighted to be introduced to Ellie from Bot Inc for some free marketing consultancy. Having transitioned from landmark blue chip natural history we were excited to start sharing the unique work and skillset that Ember have also been offering to the commercial sector predominantly under the radar. Ellie is extremely well connected and has a wealth of experience generating editorials and PR for large production houses and studios at the top of their game, so who better for us to talk to? She has already provided us with sound advice and created some great articles to get the ball rolling, which have already been shared widely. Ember offer something quite different to the standard production company and Ellie has been so enthusiastic about what we do and how we draw out our unique USPs. She has great ideas about how we continue to raise Ember's profile so we see this being just the start of a long and positive collaboration.”