Tamara Littleton is CEO and Founder of global social media agency The Social Element. She spoke to Econsultancy about switching to an agile approach to strategy and KPIs in the wake of the pandemic, the tools that are helping her to keep on top of things and how the brand is handling short-term planning.
Please describe your job: What do you do?
I’m the CEO and Founder of The Social Element and I’m in charge of our future vision, leader of the agency and custodian of our culture.
How has your typical day been impacted in the short term by the pandemic?
We were already very well set up for remote working as the majority of the team work from home. Therefore, our logistics have not been as traumatic as they have for others, but I would say that day-to-day we’ve switched to a very agile approach to our short term strategy and KPIs. As a result, I’m spending a lot of time with my executive team – feeding in research and findings from the industry as well as from other sources like WhatsApp groups among my network.
Prior to the pandemic I was often out and about, speaking at events and meeting contacts and clients. I’m still doing that (albeit virtually) but I’ve switched my focus to be more internal. I’m having far more internal meetings and company briefings than before but it felt like the right approach for me.
What are your favourite tools and techniques to help you get your work done at the moment?
I’m not usually very structured in my day. I normally allow for lots of strategic thinking and different meetings and (in the old world) often worked later hours to make up for a more flexible day. However, I’ve found that a strict routine is helping me get through this and is making me more productive. I’ve never been so rigid in my day before but it’s keeping me focused.
Monday.com is my favourite tool right now as I can keep a close eye on our delivery and new projects. Zoom virtual backgrounds are making me smile.
Which companies have impressed you since the outbreak?
In a time of crisis, the most impressive action any brands can take is to be kind and take empathetic action. Whether that’s rising to the challenges of safety equipment shortages – with independent brewer BrewDog making hand sanitiser in its Aberdeenshire distillery – or repurposing where possible to support other NHS efforts: Premier Inn has given space to local hospitals, while MSC Cruises made hospital deliveries with a ship.
Grocery organisations have across the board have stepped up to ensure not only that everyone is fed, but the most vulnerable people are looked out for – with Sainsbury’s, Iceland and more introducing shopping hours just for vulnerable people, and many expanding online delivery options. For those of us stuck at home, LinkedIn has made 16 of its courses free. I could go on and on – when you’re looking for it you can see endless evidence of brands working really hard to do the right thing and the empathetic thing.
What changes are you making to help your brand connect with how people are feeling and experiencing the pandemic?
From a marketing point of view we have focused our thought leadership around practical help, such as remote working, pivoting the brand on social, tone of voice on social media and crisis management.
It’s been great to run webinars to help our clients with panel speakers from companies like Eurostar and Facebook and other CMOs really sharing their experiences. Our insights team has been working flat out to deliver reports to our brands, as information on the audience and key trends are everything right now.
What trends have you seen in the last few weeks in your sector?
There’s been a real shift from just sharing advice to more concrete collaboration amongst agencies, who are either focusing on joint marketing and business development or looking at working together to benefit brands.
I’ve noticed the different waves of pandemic crisis management as we go through them. While many brands are still in pivot stage, we’re helping a lot of our clients with ‘business as usual’ – but with a new focus. That translates as updating how they execute their new strategy across social media, for example.
What advice would you give a marketer right now?
Tone of voice is everything: it’s important to get that right. Think about how you want to come out of this as a brand, not in three months’ time, but next year – even the year after that. If you have that as your ‘North Star’, it will help reshape your marketing strategy and how you are being perceived on social media and on digital.
Even if a brand is not trading at the moment, it’s still important to shape all communication and content to stay front of mind and help define the consumer’s perception of your brand in the long term.
What does long term planning and strategy look like now at your brand?
We have our three-year plan in place but our next year plan is very fluid. This means we can update our forecast weekly and adapt to market changes. Our long term plan keeps us motivated and on course, our short term planning is our reality.
Luckily, we’d already done a huge amount of work on ensuring our content, strategy and engagement services can be delivered with a remote model so we’re 100% focused on growth. It’s my job to make sure we can adapt and hopefully thrive in this environment, especially when brands and consumers become more confident again.
Read more from Tamara Littleton on the Econsultancy blog.