Making the pandemic pivot with your small business

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

By Mark G. Auerbach

Before anyone ever dreamed about a pandemic, I’d already learned some valuable lessons about having a “Plan B,” when things change on a dime. In 2019, I was in a serious accident, and after surgeries and a long recovery with weeks in rehab, I had to pivot my company to accommodate the challenges that my weary bones could maneuver. But, as 2020 began, I was back at the top of my game. Nonetheless, I didn’t have any Plan B for the pandemic.

Lesson one

My company handles public relations for a variety of event-driven companies, and as the pandemic began, many events were cancelled. One of my major clients, the political satire group The Capitol Steps, went on hiatus before deciding to bring down its final curtain. Work for them on their national tours, summer series, and for some of the producers who booked them for engagements dried up overnight. (First lesson learned: don’t depend upon one or more clients that do the same kind of work, in this case, events.)

Lesson two

Some of my clients pivoted from live events to virtual ones, which meant adjusting our marketing and promotional campaigns to accommodate social media and virtual sites. At least half of my clients either reduced their events schedule, scaled back their marketing, or postponed. My first priority became keeping the social media people working with me employed. I didn’t want to lay anyone off. (With luck, I haven’t had to.) Second lesson learned: Be flexible.

Lesson three

I reassessed my skill sets and the company’s, and realizing that I do so much work in radio, I could work with podcasts, and voiceovers. A longtime colleague and close friend of mine (we had worked together on some national projects) asked me to help him nationally promote a podcast series. From that still-ongoing project, Game Changers in Medicine, other calls for help from clients looking to package podcasts and reimagine their marketing. This brought our business back to its pre-pandemic levels, although definitely different in tone. Third lesson learned: Redesign your menu and refresh your offerings.

I’m not the only one working in arts and media who had to dance a pandemic pivot. Robert Fairchild, the former New York City Ballet principal dancer, Tony Award nominee for his performance in An American in Paris, and featured actor in the movie Cats, turned his off-stage time into boo•kay, a new business designing high-end bouquets and floral arrangements. (He has gotten rave reviews with his new line of work). Broadway dancers Adam Perry from Frozen and Sara Esty from An American in Paris joined his team. Their work is exquisite. Watch the video on their website.

The accomplished New England-based actor Tara Franklin always loved to bake, and when she was offstage, she had a seasonal bake shop, Sweet Sam Bakes. With the pandemic and less opportunities to appear onstage (although she starred in virtual productions of WAM Theatre’s Roe and Chester Theatre’s adaptation of King Lear). Sweet Sam Bakes has ramped up its cookie business.

Creative people will find a way to turn the effects of the pandemic into something new and different. This difficult time gives all of us a chance to pivot into something new, rebrand or refocus our current work, and to refresh our attitudes and choices. And, maybe that dream job or business could be yours. Many people will not return to traditional workplaces, and business won’t be business as usual even after the world returns to normal.


Mark G. Auerbach is principal at Mark G. Auerbach Public Relations, a Springfield, MA, based marketing, public relations, development and events consultancy. You can find more information about Mark at Facebook and LinkedIn. Mark also produces ArtsBeat in print in The Westfield News, on radio for Pioneer Valley Radio and on TV and radio on WCPC15 and 89.5fm/WSKB. His new series, On The Mark, premiered in October.

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