"Through the Looking Glass" - Episode 2: FD Comms

Cardiff Capital Region

Welcome to the second in CCR's series of looking at the day to day impact the Coronavirus is having on a selection of businesses within the region through the different perspectives of both a newly appointed graduate and their respective managers.

Our second feature covers Front Door Communications (FD Comms)  – a PR, social media and content marketing agency based in Cardiff- and one of many small businesses in the CCR  who are  doing their very best to maintain “business as usual” in these unprecedented times.

We spoke to Kath Chadwick, who along with Lynsey Walden, is one of the founding partners of FD Comms, about the challenges the Coronavirus “lockdown” is presenting to their business. Kath told us:

We were ahead of the curve on the transition to working from home. In the interests of health and safety we made the decision to close the office a week ahead of the announcements on March 23rd so we are now all well and truly used to the new ways of working.

The biggest challenge for us was less about access to systems and the network capacity issues that larger businesses have had to contend with – we all have everything we need on our laptops and are pretty self-sufficient – for us it was more about ensuring that, with all the extra demands on our time at home with families and young children to attend to, we were able to provide that round the clock support to our clients.”

One of the advantages of being a small close knit team is the fact that FD Communications are well acquainted with each other’s personal circumstances and are able to pull together as a team to create the much needed flexibility that those with young children in particular need to be able to flex working hours around child care and partner work demands.

Kath added: “I am really proud of the way we have all supported each other in the new way of working, particularly the care and compassion we continuously show each other whilst simultaneously continuing to deliver the service our clients expect and deserve from us.

“I am also really proud to be part of a business network that cares about fellow businesses. For example I have been super impressed by the way some clients have insisted on paying fees on day of invoicing to help us with cash flow and also with organisations like  the IoD for the care and concern they have shown to us. It’s heartening to feel part of a close-knit business community that wants to support each other in any way we can throughout these difficult times.”

When asked if the Coronavirus had changed client requirements much or if they have found the type of things they are doing more of have changed Kath said: “One of the biggest changes we’ve seen is obviously the slow down and pausing of work in the hospitality / leisure sectors plus a general tightening of the purse strings across the board, however on the plus side we have experienced a corresponding upsurge for work supporting Recruitment. Acorn Recruitment for example, is one of our clients and we have been actively involved in supporting their recruitment drives for a combination of the Health Boards and food distribution supply chain, alongside other extensive recruitment campaigns for a variety of other clients.”

Like every other business FD Communications have been using Microsoft Teams, Skype, Zoom for both internal team meetings and client meetings and make a point of having a video call with everyone in the team at least once a week. They have also set up a Whats app group that provides an outlet for humour and casual day to day conversations that we all take so much for granted when you are set next to your colleagues.   When asked what she misses most about office life

Kath said: “It’s just those little interactions, the casual ‘what do you think about this or that’ that just makes the wheels turn quicker. The building on each other’s thoughts just seem to work that little bit better face to face than it does on a team’s shared screen or in a call. On the plus side however, it is forcing us all to be more independent and be confident with our own skills and that’s not a bad thing”.

Finally, when asked about the challenges of managing a recently appointed CCR graduate Annie Harding, Kath said: “What challenges…? Annie has adapted brilliantly to the change in ways of working. Like most graduates her grasp of technology is fantastic so that presents no issue at all but she has also used this opportunity to pick up the baton and run with it showing us what she’s capable of doing with minimal supervision. Yes, for sure, discussing concepts and reviewing output takes slightly longer when it’s done via telephone and shared screens, but it has had no impact on our ability to continue to ensure we deliver first class content to our clients. Her enthusiasm also keeps the rest of us going when we’re juggling the day to day strains of life, as well as working full time.”

We also spoke to Annie about the challenges of being a relatively new graduate in a business that has had to shift from being office based to home based within months of her appointment

Firstly, we asked Annie how she found out about the Graduate Scheme and the role:

“I found out about the Communications role first through a job website and then applied through the Cardiff Capital Region Graduate Scheme site. I was very lucky as I wanted to stay in the Cardiff Region and the fact that it was linked to such a great scheme was a bonus! The whole process was very quick from applying for the role, getting a call back and then getting the interview. I studied Graphic Design at university and moved to Cardiff as I love the City and want to work here”.

Clearly everyone’s working lives have changed dramatically over the last few weeks… when asked how COVID-19 has changed the content of her working day in particular, Annie said: “There’s now more news to monitor and things to be aware of when running social media for clients. I also find more of my time is focussed on keeping up to date in conferences and more regular emails. I’m lucky as I settled into my job before everything happened, we were sent to work from home before all the regulations came about as a lot of our clients are remote anyway and doing social media it doesn’t make a huge difference to me. If anything, I think we have been busier since the virus as clients want to put out more content. Overall though I prefer the office environment because it’s easier to communicate with the team”.

When asked her view from an employee perspective on how FD Comms has reacted to the challenges brought on by this change or to what degree it is business as usual, Annie said: “Business has ramped up and we are working harder to provide clients with the support they need during this time. I’ve personally been putting out far more during this period but we have to be careful with the output we now put out as it needs to convey the right message. We need to be tactful with every post. Everything now seems to be connected – in one way or another – to COVID-19 these days. Front Door has been so supportive to us. We do have a lot more conference calls to stay connected with each other. We also use WhatsApp to stay in contact and the team are great in making sure everyone is comfortable with their tasks and checking we have all the information and equipment we need to do our job effectively. They gave me a laptop stand and I basically now have my office at home which is great!”

When asked what her aspirations for the future are now and if they’ve changed at all Annie said: “I want to continue working in digital marketing at Front Door Communications and remain settled here in Cardiff for the foreseeable future. I love Cardiff and I love my job so my plan is to keep a good hold of it!”

Finally a last word from the CCR, if you are evaluating your capacity and need any further resource to manage at this time, the Cardiff Capital Region Graduate Scheme may be able to help. The Scheme can provide a free and streamlined recruitment service that can match your immediate resourcing needs to high-skilled graduate talent in the region.

If you are interested in finding out more please get in touch with either laura.carter@cardiff.gov.uk or Geraldine.OSullivan@cardiff.gov.uk.