Living on the Edge: Rising above the floodwaters and staying afloat during the pandemic
Living on the Edge is a weekly series exploring how small agencies have overcome adversity and applied creativity, ingenuity and hard work to solve a business problem. This installment is about how one marketing company managed to keep its momentum going remotely, both in times of flooding and now coronavirus.
We’re an agency that is used to operating ahead of looming adversity. When the wet, rainy aftermath of a hurricane resulted in one of the worst floods in Pennsylvania history, we ended up with waterfront property we never wanted—actually underwater property. So, we did what most creatures do when threatened by rapidly rising waters: we fled to higher ground.
Volunteering the better part of their Sunday morning and afternoon, the Pavone Marketing Group team packed up a truckload of computers, servers, printers, countless files and one indispensable coffee maker to set up shop in our new headquarters—a conference room in Harrisburg’s Residence Inn.
In the span of six hours, we successfully rebuilt an entire agency halfway across town.
Our quarters were a little cramped, but at least they were dry, and the quick move allowed the agency to stay up and running without missing a beat. Our displacement was so seamless, in fact, that when we finally moved back into our headquarters three weeks later, some of our clients had no idea we had ever left.
We wish the story ended there, but it doesn’t. We went on to do this again a couple years later from yet another flood. We’re getting good at it. And to some degree, these ordeals have made us resilient and malleable, and also prepared us for what the entire world is dealing with now: COVID-19.
As with many other businesses in our communities and across the country, PMG officially migrated out of our cozy offices in Harrisburg, Philly and Chicago into new remote work spaces. We recognized that, like with the rising waters of the floods, it was best to get ahead of this. After all, we're built to be a brand-sustaining business, so switching to a remote model was really just “business as usual.” Within hours, our team was up and running, safely working from home at full capacity. We even found the time to produce, print, post and distribute fun and clever posters promoting safety through proper office hygiene.
But at the end of the first week of “the new normal,” one thing was missing: the social banter. This time, we weren’t side-by-side in a hotel banquet space; we were spread across three cities, in more than a hundred separate locations. Water cooler talk screeched to a halt. The smell of printer toner no longer stung the nostrils. Office luxuries became WFH atrocities. Seriously, what is one to do when Yacht Rock Thursdays is replaced by "Frozen II" for the 37th time?
And early last week when our chief operating officer asked for people to share images of their “office space,” we quickly learned for most of us, our “new” colleagues were spouses, children or four-legged and furry. And when weekly standups turned to conference calls in pajamas, and whiteboards turned to Google sheets, we turned to digital "Quaranteam" building.
That's right. Fire up that Google Hangouts, and let's stay social—while socially distant.
One day last week, 20 members of the Philly office “brought their lunch” and dialed in across the noon hour to play a rousing game of Quiplash (#notasponsor), a great game to share a few laughs, stay creative and recharge our social-banter meters.
The ol' virtual happy hour was a must-have, as well. Friday afternoon, we rocked an agency-wide, BYOB digital happy hour. Around 75 people hailing from three cities on the same video conference? Beautiful mayhem. We kept that bad boy going for the full hour, and I gotta tell you, spirits were high. It reflected a wonderful respite to the madness inside and out.
The end result: Morale up. Office connected. Resilience and malleability sure upped the ante here.
Author's note: I will say, one thing hasn't changed: I still get the side-eye when I don't put my coffee mug in the dishwasher.