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Marketing agencies: How to get to the other side of crisis

Leighton Interactive’s Clare Richards shares three tips on how marketing communications agencies can pivot their clients’ and their own marketing strategies during the coronavirus pandemic.

6 min read

Marketing Strategy

Marketing agencies: How to get to the other side of crisis

Mohamed Hassan / Pixabay

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The last few months have been … strange. Difficult, emotional and uncertain? Yes.

But also strange.

As we observe personal and company brands, it’s easy to see who is elevating their exposure and connections and, perhaps, even creating new connections in new spaces. Have you considered why some companies and brands are thriving and others are not? We believe a critical factor for thriving during these strange times is leveraging and strengthening, deep and trusted connections with support systems.

Marketing agencies are support systems for clients. Our success and our clients’ success depend on creative problem-solving, innovation and reinvention during difficult times. Marketing agencies must always be a creative support system for our clients. It’s the heart and value of our work. But in challenging times, it’s especially important to hone in on your agency’s creative approach, which can help create new solutions (i.e. success) for clients and sustained business for the agency.

Consider these tips to ensure your agency thrives during the COVID-19 pandemic:

1. Keep clients at the center of your work

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” This quote from Mahatma Gandhi is a good reminder for life, but also for marketing agencies who are only as successful as their clients. When clients win, agencies win. Especially during crisis moments, agencies have an opportunity to accelerate and excel at, their client relations or client service approach. A helpful exercise to get in the clients’ mindset is to explore questions such as:

  • What is the unique challenge my client is facing?
  • What internal and external factors are contributing to the challenge?
  • What is the unique solution only my client can provide?
  • How quickly can I bring these ideas and solutions, in the form of action plans, to the client?

Timeliness is key. Quickly make connections with clients in crisis moments to let them know you’re on their team and are exploring ways to advance their work. Be prepared to share several new ideas or updated tools you can position as immediate, results-driven, resources for them.

Let’s look at two areas: PR and sales

Creative PR

Keep in mind success will look different for each client. For most, generating revenue is the highest priority. For others, staff morale is of greatest concern. Our agency helped achieve positive exposure for a senior living community client, Walker Methodist. COVID-19 hit their operations hard, nearly impacting every element of the care they provide for seniors. Our approach was to emphasize their mission, share good news and connect more deeply with the residents and families they serve. The positivity campaign, Well-Wishes for Walker Methodist, helped gather and celebrate, messages from the public directed to their staff. The campaign generated hundreds of uplifting messages of hope and inspiration while assuring concerned family and community members that the residents were more than safe and their physical, emotional and spiritual needs were being met, in line with the organization’s mission.

Growing sales 

For some companies, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused stagnant sales. Perhaps the sales team is struggling to translate traditional and in-person sales methods to accommodate the current. Or perhaps the products and services being offered are not a high priority for target customers. In both scenarios, it’s possible to shift the sales structure and the sales’ teams mindset from “outside” sales to “inside” sales with the help of basic sales concepts, resources and tools.

2. Leverage empathy to build morale and grow your business

To expand on client relations and client service, it’s important for marketing agencies to reflect on how to empathize and connect with clients’ missions, purpose and value proposition. This may involve engaging with clients’ employees to get a sense of their view of the current environment, what they’re hearing from customers and how leadership is responding. If clients are struggling to focus, consider the following:

  • What is the clients’ greatest contribution to their customers and communities?
  • Help them create opportunities, i.e. take a proactive stance to generate news, stories, ways to update or reframe existing practices and so on.
  • Encourage clients to not stand idle, but to take action quickly. Platforms such as their website and social media channels are immediately available to reposition and promote their point of view.
  • What essential businesses or industries need what your clients have to offer? Connecting with these organizations can create short-term success and long-term stability.
  • Invite employees and customers to talk and share their perspectives in new spaces. Your clients’ employees significantly contribute to the health of the organization and helping clients think about an internal communications strategy can demonstrate security and transparency to employees.
  • Ask clients: How are you cheering for and supporting employees? A platform developed for a client — i.e. a podcast — could be repurposed as an internal communication tool. 
  • Help clients engage with employees and customers via video. People learn and process information differently, so explore various mediums to strike a balance and get your message across.

3. Evolve your agency expertise

Marketing agencies provide an essential support system for clients. We do this by delivering marketing strategies and tactics that serve clients’ greatest needs. But we also can provide strategic thought leadership and collaboration when our clients need this most. Now is the time to turn up the level of support you offer clients and creatively explore ways to help them evolve and grow through the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pandemic crisis doesn’t have to mark the end of stability for your agency or your clients. In fact, the crisis could serve as a catalyst to elevate your expertise and position your agency as an indispensable resource.

Remember to keep clients at the center of your work, utilize empathy to connect with clients and their customers and assess how your agency can carve out thought leadership to help you evolve and reach the other side of crisis with security and stability.


Clare Richards is the creative services manager for Leighton Interactive, a digital marketing agency focused on measurable, empathy-based marketing. For more insights like this, check out its COVID-19 Response Strategies Guide and subscribe to the Leighton Interactive blog.


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