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At home with the licensing industry: License to PR

How is business continuing for the industry now working from home is the new normal? Source talks to Louise O’Shea, founder, about how License to PR has adapted.

With the licensing and related industries all working from home due to COVID-19 restrictions and lockdowns, Source talks to key companies across the spectrum to find out how they are keeping business going.

Today: Louise O’Shea, founder, License to PR.

How is the team’s day now structured, with everyone working from home?

We are currently a team of two halves. The mums among us tend to put in an early shift before the gates to home school open, restarting again later in the day and slipping away for client Zoom calls when needed. Everyone else is on-call during our usual office hours, but is working with the freedom to structure their day according to their workload and the needs of our clients. The team WhatsApp group is very busy. It’s a great way to flag issues that need an immediate response and to also share news stories and trend pieces that can help shape the work we do.

Could you provide a rough timeline of your day?

Early morning emails, exercise, breakfast, home school in the morning, lunch, work combined with some activities that are educational but don’t feel like it and end with Disney+, Netflix, Amazon Prime or a combination of all three, dinner. Sometimes more work or a Zoom social, occasionally a call with an international client which makes it all sound more straightforward than it sometimes feels.

How is the communication with clients continuing? How important is it to continue keeping these lines of communication open during this time?

Regular communication with our clients has continued and is really necessary as things are constantly shifting and evolving. We’re speaking to some clients more regularly than we did before lockdown hit and it’s been great. We’ve been led by them and give them as much or as little as they need knowing that each individual business is dealing with its own set of challenges. Adapting campaigns mid-stream and the need to approach PR and marketing differently during the pandemic has provided an opportunity to collaborate and to consider best practice.

The media is also operating differently – some publishing less frequently with a news agenda driven by COVID-19 and social media has become even more essential as a vehicle for disseminating brand news and messaging.

Which projects are you able to move forward on right now?

We’ve actually been able to move forward with about 80% of our projects, but we’ve obviously had to adapt PR strategies in response to the closure of retail and the prioritisation of essential goods online.

On the trade side of the business, there is still a huge appetite for online news, and we’ve been advising clients on their output during this time. We’ve been providing counsel in light of the cancellation of Licensing Expo and the date move for The Licensing Awards. We’re also working on lots of forward planning; it’s nice to be able to start thinking for a future beyond the crisis.

On the consumer side of the business, our focus has been utilising our parenting, kid and celebrity influencer community to deliver branded content and engaging ideas to support families during the self-isolation period. Several new projects have actually been generated during this time when toys and branded activities have never been so appealing to families who are house bound and the engagement has been huge.

There have been many highlights including a campaign to promote the SVOD release of Trolls World Tour and the online availability of official licensed merchandise. Our Peppa Pig brand ambassadors helped us to deliver the #peppafamilytime campaign and have raised money for Save the Children by taking part in the annual Muddy Puddles Week which was pivoted so families could join in from home. The Make Rainbows with Elmer campaign – delivered on behalf of Andersen Press – championed Elmer’s positivity and encouraged families to come together through reading and creativity and we promoted Jazware’s award-winning plush, Squishmallows, with posts on TikTok, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter resulting in sell out status at Smyths online. We’ve just closed a lovely campaign for The Very Hungry Caterpillar on behalf of Rocket Licensing which encouraged families to celebrate spring in lockdown by baking recipes inspired by the iconic book.

We’ve also had the good fortune to welcome new clients including ADK Emotions NY, the content and rights management agency for Beyblade globally (ex-Asia).

What piece of advice would you give about how best to continue to feel like a team while WFH?

Regular contact and an acknowledgement that it’s just not the same has been helpful. Sympathising with the ups and downs of life in lockdown and the challenges that presents both personally and in terms of work when it can impact on deliveries, timelines and expectations. We’re also trying to remain positive and keep a sense of perspective. Being able to laugh about things helps. A lot of conversations are centred around how great the internet is and what we would do without Zoom – even though we’re starting to love to hate it!

How are you keeping up morale?

Regular Zoom meetings, always being available, team Zoom socials, surprise care packages, affording everyone flexibility in terms of how to structure their day, regular updates and reassurances about the future.

Best thing about WFH?

I’ve always worked from home a couple of days a week and love the increased productivity and thinking time that it affords. I miss those days!

What’s the one thing you’ve discovered about each team member since WFH that you didn’t know before?

Di is a motivational tour de force, she is the Duracell bunny of PR; Hayley doesn’t like working from home but has now harnessed the ability to pull together an influencer outreach campaign in under a week; Rebecca (in fact all of the team) takes very little persuasion to buy anything off Amazon; Liv isn’t a natural gardener as her smashed iPhone will attest but she makes great hats out of cling film; and Paul can move a whole office in under 2 hours.

If you have children, how are you managing keeping them entertained/educated while you work?

Like all working parents, I think I’ve tried everything. We have a loose structure for the day, but I’ve made peace with the fact that some days are better than others and no matter what you buy off Amazon, nothing is more entertaining to a five year old child than interrupting a video conference half clothed.

What advice would you give to people in the business who are worried about the future?

Running a business takes hard work and unwavering optimism. There will be changes and very few of us will be unaffected, but licensing is resilient, and I am buoyed by the conversations that I’m having. There is a commitment to trying to forward plan and to doing everything that we can to ensure that this situation is temporary and the recovery is swift. It seems like the fight back has already begun and we’re happy to be a part of that.

If you or your team would like to take part in this feature, simply email Samantha Loveday on saml@max-publishing.co.uk.

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