MONDAY 9 JAN 2023 3:18 PM

ADAPT TO SURVIVE IN CHANGING TIMES

Many may be embarking on this new year feeling wary, still rocked by the unpredictability of the last few. Yvonne Maher, managing director at Cognito, says survival in uncertain times is about being flexible and fearless: "We believe in planning, but in pencil rather than ink."

Things are moving faster. We’ve had three prime ministers in two months – one of whom didn’t even outlast a head of lettuce. It’s getting more and more difficult to keep up.

I see this as the managing director of a communications agency working with leading and emerging brands in finance. Companies are having to make adjustments to their strategic plans in response to rapidly changing market conditions. We’ve just come through the disruption of Brexit and the pandemic; shifts that will take years to fully comprehend.

Now we seem to be entering a ‘permacrisis’. This neologism is now in the dictionary, and for good reason; we are swimming in the unexpected. Complacency must be fought or else we will all drown.

I believe one way agencies can be particularly valuable during this new state of being is if they have a broad and diverse offering. Retainers that are scoped at one point in time seldom remain absolutely targeted as time passes. We can–and must–evolve.

For some clients, this has meant putting more resources into influencer relations, even for those targeting a B2B audience. Targeted digital spend is in some cases eclipsing funds that might have been earmarked for out-of-home or newspaper advertisements. Other companies are finding that a traditional hesitancy to do executive profiling has held them back if defining their company to the public.

By providing assurances that there is flexibility in our approach, we set ourselves up for longer term relationships. Companies understand that they are not going to ‘outgrow’ or evolve beyond a particular relationship because they are changing.

These opportunities for growth are both planned and unplanned. Quarterly planning meetings or off sites are an important tool to step back from the day to day work and evaluate things at a higher level. Conversely, change sometimes must come unexpectedly in response to opportunity. We believe in planning, but in pencil rather than ink.

We also do ourselves a disservice if we minimise the changing nature of relationships when we introduce a company. It’s O.K. that we didn’t have every answer when we started working together. We need to challenge orthodoxy and discover together what’s next.

This also means we as people working in communications are comfortable with the idea of continual change and improvement. We must expand our skillset, whether that means learning from colleagues or turning to outside resources. We have to fearlessly explore new territory, whether it is new apps or new methods of customer outreach. Will every novel approach prove to be beneficial in the long run? No. But the alacrity that comes from a positive attitude towards change is helpful unto itself.

I’m not sure what the future holds. Who does? But I can confidently say that I feel more prepared working in an integrated environment than if we just focus on one service. And working with talent who is constantly pushing the boundaries and thinking about what’s next. And I’m excited for what is coming next.