Postcard from the pandemic: My perspective on learning how to spin on a dime

Image by Karen Arnold from Pixabay

By Mark G. Auerbach

When the order to social distance and shelter-in-place came down from the Massachusetts state government, I figured our business would be business-as-usual. I worked from home, and my project folk worked remotely. Two of our major projects had just finished in late February and early March. Two of our other major projects, scheduled for later in the year were in the early planning stage, and our other two projects were on track and would likely buffer a short shutdown. I’d planned my schedule to have some time in March and April to begin an outline for a book I’d been planning to write.

Business-as-usual never happened. My two on-track clients are performance based. One cancelled the remainder of its current season, which caused us a lot of additional work rescheduling events, reposting to social media and shuffling ad schedules. The second postponed or cancelled its events into May, and we were busy with adjustments. One project in the planning stages, a capital campaign, was indefinitely postponed. Then, with one performance-based group dormant until September, that wor load stopped; the other cancelled and postponed events through the summer, and furloughed everyone until the first rescheduled performance was set. That included us.

Quickly switching gears

I had more time to concentrate on my media career, although as a theatre reporter, there were no shows to review. Unlike some competitors who have shut down, I switched course. As a radio reporter, I knew how to podcast, so I offered up my services to help potential podcasters polish their product and promote themselves. (I wrote three articles for Succeeding in Small Business on the topic, and self-promoted by posting them all over social media). As a result, I’ve picked up some new clients, which is bringing income in from a service I’d never considered promoting.

With no performances to cover, I took my ArtsBeat franchise, and spun it to cover online arts events, which began to proliferate, as crafty arts folk figured out how to maintain their audiences and build new ones online. My producers at WCPC15 and 89.5fm/WSKB needed new product, so I decided to revive my non-arts reporting skills and produce and host a two-part series, How We’re Doing, where I’d interview people in all walks of life about how their lives had changed with the arrival of COVID19, how they learned to work from home, how they adjusted to ZOOM and online meetings, and their recommendations to others. (One interviewee is Jeanne Yocum, publisher of Succeeding in Small Business and author of The Self-Employment Survival Guide). The two-part series became four parts, then eight parts, and then ten parts, and it got picked up for national syndication. I heavily self-promoted it, using the skills of one of the social media people I have working for me. It was a good investment. It kept one of my people on payroll (good for him) and got my business and me as a reporter more publicity (good for me). You can find ArtsBeat TV/Radio programs and the ArtsBeat Special Series: How We’re Doing here.

One of the people I interviewed was transitioning his business to ride the new waves. I’m now onboard to help him market and promote his new venture. A group of performers have brought me onboard to help them develop an online presence as they turn their work into live chats. I’ve rethought how I promote my business and myself.

I’m not working at 100% as I was in early March, but I’m at approximately 90%. I’m ready as my dormant clients reawaken, and I still have some time to begin outlining the book…which probably will be shelved when pool season begins. And, with four free evenings a week not being taken up by reviewing shows (which I do miss), I’m catching other people’s online work, participating in a webinar here and there, networking, and picking up some new skillsets. Flexibility and a bit of creativity is one way of succeeding in small business, while the chips may be down.

Keeping in touch

I’ve also shared my journey with my colleagues and clients. One, it’s important to remain in touch with your base. I’m concerned about their well-being. And, in sharing my activities in a “just so you know” manner as opposed to “buy this new service,” they know that I’m okay.

There was a short-lived Broadway musical in the early 1970’s called Seesaw, best known for Tommy Tune performing an anthem of optimism: “It’s not where you stop, it’s where you finish.” Its first act finale was called “Ride Out The Storm” (which was tossed out of the show and replaced by another number). But that song is an anthem for today: “Just pull together, fasten your seatbels, and we’ll ride out the storm.”

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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 radio/TV for WCPC15 and 89.5fm/WSKB.

1 comment

  1. moto x3m says:

    One, it’s important to remain in touch with your base. I’m concerned about their well-being…

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