The concept of an “essential” worker has been on many minds for the past several weeks. Meanwhile, so-called non-essential businesses and employees are scrambling for ways to survive — and those who have managed to stay afloat face a barrage of bleak forecasts, bracing themselves for the next tempest.
As a business in the corporate communications sector, my company is not immune to this environment. Our agency’s work includes website and video production, branding, social media content marketing, events, and digital reputation management. In other words, we won’t be found on any official list of essential services. My goal as an employer, however, is to always remain essential to our clients. We’ve managed to navigate previous challenges by staying nimble enough to quickly respond to the changing tides of technology and taste. While none of those challenges stack up to the current viral behemoth, our experience and past methods of survival have enabled us to adapt to the upside down world of today.
Nimble: to be quick and light in movement and action.
In business, staying nimble involves being able to adjust your focus in response to industry and economic changes. Some good examples were noted recently in Harvard Business Review. With an ethos of nimbleness baked into our culture, we aren’t weighed down by soon-to-be outdated equipment, or anchored to one type of deliverable. By keeping overhead light, we practice agile management and can stay two steps ahead of the problems our clients are looking to solve. Our constant course corrections help us innovate and avoid more drastic and desperate business-saving pivots.
A good example of this nimbleness comes from our video team, Fearless Company. On numerous occasions, they’ve been forced to adapt to client needs and technology advancements. The most recent necessary evolution has been into remote capture technology — a platform that allows us to create professional quality videos without sending a single crew member out on location.
When Fearless launched, a decade ago, we were still operating in the old-school film production model. I would send a crew of senior, New York-based talent to every shoot, no matter the location. They would travel with our director, often with little notice, to capture whatever our clients needed. A handful of Fearless hard drives, overflowing with sensitive, extremely important footage, would be simultaneously circling the globe, en route to various editors, in order to meet our delivery promises. The results brought accolades and increased workflow, but the process was prohibitively expensive and unwieldy.
Our first evolution focused on identifying and connecting with talented production crews across the country and around the world. Fearless invested in a global network that allowed us to fly a single director/producer to locations, where they would interface and collaborate with a local crew.
The next evolution took place a few years ago, with a significant hardware upgrade. Inspired by some of our youthful talent, we embraced a new wave of extremely compact, intuitive, and powerful video and audio equipment. Armed with next generation technology, we were able to streamline our shoots even further. Now, our directors, who once flew from city to city, overseeing large teams, would be able to handle the entire production with only a single DP (masterful cameraperson), while still delivering at the highest level.
This was our new normal, but as the recent fog of a pandemic approached and social distancing restrictions were implemented, we knew that even a one-person production would be one too many. We needed to get the job done without any team members going on-site. Fortunately, we were already familiar with remote video capabilities. In a flash, the concept went from novelty to necessity; a service that our clients urgently required. Our research had led us to a platform originally designed to communicate remotely with doctors. We quickly recognized its potential, invested in this technology, and adapted it to our needs — pushing the platform to creative levels beyond anything its original developers ever intended.
With our Remote Capture platform, the same directors who once trotted the globe, accumulating frequent flier miles, tiny bottles of shampoo, and a lifetime supply of jetlag could now record HD video anywhere from a remote workstation. We connect directly with our client’s smart phone or computer, or a device that we ship to them. This not only gives us advanced control of the camera and microphone settings — but also allows us to scout the location, prep and style our clients, and direct the shoot in real-time. Consulting through a video interface, our directors ensure that the framing, lighting, and audio are optimized. The platform allows us to record and guide multiple executives simultaneously, while collaborators (PR leads, compliance, etc.) virtually “sit-in” to watch and provide feedback. We then upload the HD footage directly to our editor. With no more hard drives stuffed into carry-on luggage while precious hours tick-by, our delivery turn-around has gone supersonic. We’re producing professional quality videos, directed and filmed completely remotely by our experienced team of creatives from their own living rooms.
As a creative agency, our mission is to help clients represent themselves professionally — anywhere, any time. To execute on this promise, we have proven our agility by remaining tethered to technology’s progress and have adapted through shifts in culture, economics, and boots-on-the-ground realities. Our ability to swiftly meet the moment with the optimal solution has enabled the business leaders that we serve to provide trustworthy information, reliable leadership, and a sense of connection by communicating directly and professionally with their workforce and stakeholders. While we wouldn’t advocate this solution as a perfect replacement for in-person shoots, by staying nimble in a shifting landscape, we have rapidly evolved our services and created a new strategy for digital communications that will serve our clients even once this pandemic has passed.
Of course, we recognize that this doesn’t graduate us to any critical “essential” list, but by being able to quickly adapt to an unprecedented moment with new solutions, we have thankfully discovered how to remain an essential service for our clients.