Andrée Paige – Summer Blog Series
The Write Paige Inc.
Over the course of the summer, we have been featuring members of the OTUS Group network who have shared observations and insights about changes, challenges and emerging trends in today’s work cultures and industries.
This week, we would like to introduce Andrée Paige, an executive-level corporate communications advisor and content strategist whose career spans 30 years working on Parliament Hill, in the private sector, through communications networks, and as a business owner of The Write Paige Inc.
Tell us a bit about The Write Paige and your main areas of focus.
Founded in 2000, The Write Paige Inc. is a team of integrated marketing and communications executives and boardroom advisors helping business leaders connect with their target audiences and markets in the most strategic, resourceful and impactful ways.
The Write Paige’s core expertise includes written and visual content strategies, corporate ghostwriting and corporate communications.
Above and beyond providing strategic counsel and content, we are also brought in for research and analysis, interviews and reviews, profiles, internal/external outreach initiatives, and launches—helping clients grow (or repair) their brands and public reputations, respond swiftly and effectively during crises, and advance strategic objectives.
What are some of the most significant communication challenges you have so far during COVID-19?
As a virtual company with a scalable, collaborative business model, we’ve been pandemic-proof for 20 years! As technology has advanced, so has our ability and availability to be in many places at the same time. We were video conferencing to reduce commutes and enter a greater number of boardrooms every day long before COVID-19. In-person meetings and networking are still important, when they are safe, but there are many alternative communication channels that can feel genuine and personalized if you use the right tone and timing.
The crisis communications side of our business began to escalate in late February 2020. By the time panic spikes began to erupt across Canada and globally in mid-March, we had already scaled up our resources to support clients who deliver essential services. We were also ready to help clients in crisis who needed to pivot urgently.
If a client was delivering an essential service, we were often working closely with leadership teams, health and safety teams and human resources to ensure front line employees had the information, reassurance and resources they needed to work in a safe environment. This included helping them with public and client-facing messaging.
If a client was pivoting, we were often assisting with research, marketing-related materials, website edits, media relations, social media, digital advertising campaigns, and other outreach activities.
We monitored social media constantly to track trends and “shifting moods” to ensure our messages and content were relevant. From toilet paper to hand sanitizer to murder hornets, we would comb through all the noise and recommend to our clients from one week to the next whether to engage, or whether it was best to stay silent and listen intently. The right tone and timing were critical. Again, it depended on the industry and nature of the business.
In the case of impact and response, we worked with our clients to develop an authentic understanding that not everyone can bounce back in the same way. Much like people can have an invisible injury or illness, COVID-19 has presented unknown risks and required careful decisions on a case by case basis.
If one person’s boundaries are different than another’s, there may be reasons we are not aware of that influence their decisions. Listening and communicating on very human levels have been critically important in recent months.
Organizations that once resisted change and a more virtual way of communicating were forced to adapt very quickly. Some were better prepared than others. Through our networks, we were able to refer our clients to technical solutions and tools to help them analyze, plan and/or implement changes. When they were ready, we helped facilitate their organizational transitions and transformations by providing strategic input and implementing communications strategies.
We have been quite inspired by the spirit of entrepreneurialism and passion to bounce back. We have also observed how supportive many people have been to each other, for the most part.
Specific to Ottawa and throughout COVID-19, members of our team continue to sit on Ottawa Board of Trade councils and committees to listen in and contribute to recovery strategies. It has been very informative and collaborative.
From a communications perspective, what should organizations be doing now as we continue to navigate through the COVID-19 crisis?
From a communications perspective, we recommend that leadership teams need to continue to listen a lot in the coming months. Focus on strengthening the voice of your organization and becoming more efficient, rather than racing ahead and shouting randomly. Make sure you have something meaningful and relevant to communicate.
Pay attention to buzzwords and make sure you are not overusing them: during these difficult times, during these strange times, during these unprecedented times, during these uncertain times … When the pandemic hit, we observed that people began to copy/paste or repeat phrases of comfort and reassurance. From the chicken place to the pizza joint to the drug store chain, message after message told target audiences what kind of “times” we should be having. If you want your content to be fresh and have more edge, find new ways of saying things.
We’ve been contacted by struggling businesses as well, but this has been more recent. If you are only pivoting now, it is likely that others in your market space have already beaten you to it. Savvy entrepreneurs began pivoting in mid-March when they saw the panic spike coming or were impacted by it as it struck. They were retooled and relaunched within days or weeks. They literally seized the day.
Even so, we listen intently and evaluate whether newly-pivoting businesses have a well-formed, well-researched business idea or business plan. If they do not, we work with them to understand that they are perhaps a bit too early in the process of developing their business idea to benefit from a marketing and communications strategy, a content strategy or a marketing and advertising campaign. Perhaps they would benefit far more from organizational strategic planning, a financial or risk management assessment, or executive counsel. That’s where OTUS Group can weigh in.
Once there is a business strategy or a business plan and it is viable and achievable, then it can be “explained, advanced and promoted” by marketing and communications strategies and services.
If you are launching a program, service or product that will reduce risks and solve problems—particularly in response to this pandemic—that is where time and timing are of critical importance. Have a plan in place to ensure you are not running to a communications and marketing firm days or weeks away from meeting a deadline, launching a product or starting a new project.
Websites, marketing materials, outreaches, and launches take time to plan. Your business or organization’s strategy should be proactively supported by a communications and content strategy as early as possible in the overall planning process. Quick turnarounds are not always possible if there was a lack of planning, the scope of work is ominous and the deadline is looming.
That said, when there is a legitimate crisis like a global pandemic, communications advisors have spider senses and a web of resources that can help inform a leadership team’s decisions.
Even unforeseen or escalating incidents of much smaller proportions can be responded to swiftly (e.g. media and social relations), particularly when there is an ongoing relationship where business objectives, obstacles and opportunities are already familiar to us.
When we cannot assist directly, we offer referrals and suggestions. In the spirit of being collaborative and agile, helping others has a cascading effect that benefits us all.