2020. The excitement of a new year, a new decade, what would it bring!
Businesses, not just in our rural sector but across all industries, seemingly entered panic-mode in March.
At Garnet PR, clients froze their services, worried how they would afford to eat, let alone pay for PR! And we weren’t alone, other agencies lost clients daily.
With the fear of no sales and no bookings, tourism coming to a standstill and lockdown life looming, panic set in.
So we adapted. Moving away from sales, giving free PR coaching to small businesses, showing up on social media giving tips and support. Anything to keep the heart of rural Britain beating.
And as we adapted, so did others. We started to see what’s dubbed as the ‘blitz spirit’ come alive.
Never have I heard the word PIVOT used so much, and every time all I see in my head is Ross from Friends with that infamous sofa on the stairs! But in these circumstances it was absolutely spot on.
After the initial shock and panic subsided, rural retailers, glampsites, farmers, country pubs, attractions, all began to think of new and inventive ways to show up and stand out.
Village pubs, at the heart of their communities for centuries, started offering takeaway services and thrived. Local people dug in their heels and rallied to keep their little slice of British culture alive.
And brands realised they could shine online.
We had country events like the Lincolnshire Show go fully digital. We were taken behind the scenes of museums and wildlife parks like Wildwood Trust, who realised that people could connect with heritage, nature and animals via video. Horse riding lessons were held over zoom. Country clothing companies made quirky, very British face masks from Harris Tweed.
Rural Britain stepped up. Our farmers kept us fed, our tiny villages filled the surrounding fields with a symphony of clapping every Thursday at 8pm, thanking those who might be miles away but still in our thoughts.
And slowly, as lockdown eases, and British stoicism thrives, the recovery begins.
With news that as of the 4th July, some holiday accommodation, pubs and restaurants can open, and many attractions already there, we start to hear a crescendo of hope rising from the fields of Great Britain.
With overseas travel still restricted and tourists not arriving, Brits are looking to holiday at home, so what does this mean for our travel industry?
“The majority of visitors to the Farm Stay UK website in the last week have been 25-35 year olds looking for alternative holiday locations which come with wonderful experiences and peace of mind.
“The next few months will be critical in retaining this younger market as visitors who come back year-on-year and boost the rural economy long term.”
So, what can rural businesses do to shine? Never has strategic, excellent PR, designed to build the know, like and trust between brands and their audiences, been more vital.
Sharing stories, products, news, insight and opinions is a fantastic way to reach a target audience. Look to do as much meaningful media relations as possible, the press is always looking for great content, now more than ever.
Focus on connections and community. Social media is going back to its roots; being social. Communicate, share behind the scenes, use video content, create a rapport with your followers to create long-term fans.
Focus on your blogs and e-newsletters. Share insightful, valuable content to engage your audience. Shine a light on what makes you special, then drive traffic to these channels via social media, media relations and word of mouth.
Success starts with you. Mindset and marketing expert, Tara Best, of Tara Punter PR, explains: “Having the right mindset enables business owners to cope with all that life and business throws at them.
“When lockdown hit, so many put their focus on not failing, rather than on thriving, so their focus was in the wrong place. Instead of thinking that way, it’s essential to focus on the possibilities and potential positive outcomes. Be mindful of the story you’re telling yourself, keep your self-belief and mindset strong and anything is possible!”
Many of our clients celebrated their best months in business ever in May and June, Garnet PR included. Customers returned, sales picked up, confidence increased and now, with the country beginning, tentatively, to open up more, I hope this is the sign of things to come.
Rural life and business have been at the heart of Britain for centuries. With Christmas fast approaching in PR land, and domestic tourism set to explode, the Corona-crisis could, in fact, bring us closer to home than ever before.