The speed at which things have changed in the past 13 months has kept many professionals on their toes –which certainly includes marketing and communication professionals. We work with some incredible leaders, and it’s been inspiring to see them embrace changes, navigate challenges and take different approaches than they set out to take before everything became, well, 2020 hindsight.
We recently chatted virtually with Jamie Gassmann, director of marketing at R3 Continuum to talk about the year from her perspective and how she’s been stretched personally and professionally. R3 Continuum (R3c) is a global leader in workplace behavioral health, crisis, and security solutions—helping to ensure the psychological and physical safety of organizations and their employees in today’s complex and often dangerous world. The company’s tailored services include: crisis prevention, preparedness, response and recovery, threat of violence consulting, fitness for duty evaluations, training, protective services, executive optimization, and more.
Jamie has been with R3 Continuum for 10 years, and she describes the past 13 months as “warp speed” that stretched her and her team in ways like never before.
We’ve talked a lot about pivots lately. What are some of the big ways your marketing plan evolved throughout the past year, and how have you navigated those quick turns?
Jamie: A lot has shifted in our marketing plan, one of the biggest relating to trade shows and events that were either cancelled or went virtual. These used to be a big part of our lead gen efforts. The conference pause in 2020 allowed us to explore other avenues and opportunities for lead gen that didn’t get the budget attention in the past, things we hadn’t tried before or hadn’t invested in at the level we did.
What did some of those new investments look like?
Jamie: We focused a lot on content development, thought leadership and doubled down on PR and media relations efforts. We started a podcast, we expanded our blog content and optimized our website, and invested in digital advertising. Really, it became more of an integrated marketing approach that focused a lot on digital interactions and engagement.
What was it like shifting your budget that quickly and getting buy in from executive leadership?
Jamie: We needed to make changes. Staying with status quo, when status quo was not available, would have had a different outcome for us. What I found was a lot of openness from our executive leadership to engage our audiences in different ways so that we were delivering our messages how and when they wanted to consume the content. Which resulted in us using new and evolved ways to meet that demand. It pushed us and our organization and gave us more willingness to try new things, and at times much more quickly than we would have before.
As a company that provides valuable services in time of crisis, how have you and your communications team balanced raising awareness for what you can do, without being inauthentic or opportunistic? As other communicators consider when it’s their brand’s time to speak up about their products or services in a timely or relevant way, what considerations would you offer?
Jamie: Its important to know the difference between being an ambulance chaser and being an ambulance. We know the situations, the seasons and the events that call for next-level professional support, and we want to provide a real value to our community. We’ve had to do a lot of listening this year. And that’s where marketing starts. When we know where our audience is and what they are going through, that’s when we can say in an authentic way, “Hey, we can actually help.” And we focus on education rather than a hard sell. But before we push content out or send a news release, we evaluate what’s happening in the world and in the media to make sure our content is supportive, not adding more noise. Things change daily and hourly, so flexibility is key.
We’ve seen a lot of blunders in the past year from brands and companies that said too much or too little at various points. Especially as an expert in workplace behavioral health, how have you navigated tactful communication in a trying year?
Jamie: Tone is everything. And a bad word choice can turn into a PR nightmare. Even well-intended communication can go awry – if it doesn’t land well, the outcome is still poor regardless of the intention. Always, but especially throughout high-emotion times that may include civil unrest and more, we have taken a very critical eye to our communications. We’ve had subject matter experts write a piece of content and during the editing process, especially this last year we’ve had to say, “not right now” or “this isn’t what our audience needs from us.”
We also know that life has changed for a lot of people. We have parents navigating schooling and work-from-home scenarios, without the time to consume as much information as they used to. We’ve adapted to be mindful of everything people are going through.
How do you personally manage stress and invest in your mental wellbeing? And how have you approached your role as a leader in this challenging time?
Jamie: It’s been a hard year and a busy year. We’ve made it a point to celebrate each other and the wins that we do realize. I’ve made a conscious effort to regularly check-in with my teammates and just ask, “How are you?” – more than just as a greeting but as a real interest: “Tell me…how are you doing?” And it’s a priority to make sure they get the breaks they need, when they need them.
Mental health is a big one, too. This past year has taught me that you should always know what your company’s mental health benefits are and be prepared to spot signs or signals that an employee could use some aid.
For me personally, I’ve been focused on a healthier eating and fitness routine that has helped me with the stressors of the last year. And I remember to be kind to myself. When I’m kind to myself, I can have grace for my team, too. And we can all use that these days.
Speaking of grace and being kind to yourself, What’s Brewing for you?
Jamie: On the coffee front – Americano with vanilla and light cream After 5p.m. – stouts and porters all the way!
Thank you, Jamie, for lending your expertise and insights from the past year – it’s been invaluable to work alongside you throughout this year like no other. Stay tuned for more Q&As with business and marketing leaders as we reflect more on the role of communications and PR in these everchanging times.