You hear the word furlough and understandably you might feel worried. What will you fill your days with now? Having gone through the process of being furloughed myself, I wanted to give fellow marketers some insight and talk through how to make the most of it.
This isn’t a plug for being overwhelmingly productive. This isn’t a normal situation we find ourselves in so we can’t expect to achieve the same results as we did before all this.
Here’s my advice on how to make being furloughed work for you:
Focus on the day to day, rather than week to week
I’m often guilty of overloading myself with a giant pile of work. If there’s any spare time I will fill it with something. This period of being furloughed has given me time to take stock of my priorities and focus more day to day than in weeks.
In a time where we don’t know what’s around the corner purely focusing on each day as it comes has really helped me ease into furlough life.
Structure is good, in small manageable chunks
Don’t get me wrong: structure is good in small manageable chunks. Simple things like listing out one thing you’d like to achieve that day can help.
In his book The One Thing, Gary Keller talks about identifying the one thing you can do that by achieving will make everything else easier. Figure that out and it essentially creates a domino effect inspiring you to move on to the next task after mastering the first one.
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself
Founder of professional training company Roar Training, Kirsty Hulse has talked a lot recently about the misconception that rigid structure is good for us. In this situation, most of us will operate at around 50%. Expecting the same output as before the pandemic is unrealistic and you’ll exhaust yourself trying to get there.
Take each day as it comes. Celebrate your successes, no matter how small, and don’t be too hard on yourself if you have days where you struggle to find that motivation.
Utilise Moz’s free training classes
Moz has a whole host of free training classes hosted in their Academy, which you can take to brush up your SEO skills.
You just need to log in to your moz.com account (or sign up for free if you don’t have one). Use the code “wegotthis” at checkout and redeem your training.
Sign up for a free course on Coursera
I decided pre-furlough to start studying The Science of Wellbeing Yale course via Coursera. So when I was furloughed it gave me even more time to focus on learning a new skill. I loved discovering more about human behaviour and psychology.
Each course is different so I can’t speak for them all, but my 10-week course was free and included lectures, quizzes and a final assignment. It gave me something to focus on during this time.
In the end, I paid for a certificate because who doesn’t want proof they passed a Yale course? I was living my Gilmore Girls dream.
Register to support local charities if you have the time
One thing all furloughed employees have been actively encouraged to do at Evolved Search is to continue engaging with causes that matter to us, offering up our skills to help charities who find themselves in a really tricky spot.
A fair few PR initiatives have cropped up since I spotted The Community PR Initiative on Twitter. I loved the concept and instantly wanted to know how I could help.
CPRI is a voluntary PR agency helping to support charities, organisations and community groups improve their comms during COVID-19. You can sign up as a PR practitioner or register as an organisation needing PR support. You then get placed with a local initiative and off you go.
I offered support to Food & Drink North East, a group dedicated to shouting about the amazing hospitality sector in the region, and now pivoting to help save 800,000 jobs in the North East. It was an incredibly rewarding experience and I took a lot from it.
Alongside this, I did a shout out on Twitter offering my PR skills for free to charities. As you can imagine a fair few people got in touch so I went with who I thought I could help immediately. I worked with Nuvo Wellbeing to promote a grant the award-winning charity had just gained enabling them to offer free fitness classes to the region.
Sign up for webinars with press
If you’re like me and want to keep up to speed with the current media landscape, the best advice I can give is to sign up to webinars with the press.
So far, I’ve attended webinars with:
- The Sun
- About Time
- London Evening Standard
- Digital Spy
- 72 Point and Coverage Book
As the weeks go on, some messages regarding working with the press change, while others remain the same. But by attending webinars as often as you’re able to, you can gain an invaluable insight into what the press wants, how and when to pitch and the ways the pandemic is impacting them.
My main takeaways from the webinars have been:
- Get to the point in your outreach emails
- Don’t try and shoehorn COVID-19 into non-relevant campaigns
- As 72 Point’s Rick Maughan said “Relevance is the new reputation”
- Provide all the data a journalist might need to avoid follow-ups
- Avoid sending more than one follow up email
- Don’t take advantage of the situation
- Pivot your approach
- News sites are very analytical and consider SEO, stats and performance before taking a piece on
- Don’t oversell the concept
- Relationships you established years ago are now even more important.
- Quality journalism is more important than the quantity of articles
- Focus on one main pitch – rather than multiple ones
- Follow the news cycle
What’s working well?
- Data-led campaigns
- Uplifting news
- Human interest stories
- Advice pieces
- Expert-led stories
- Trends-based campaigns
Stay in touch with colleagues
You may not be able to talk to your colleagues about campaigns due to furlough rules, but that doesn’t mean you can’t check in with them, human-to-human. After all pre-lockdown, you spent more time with your colleagues than your family.
A virtual cuppa and a chat can do the world of good. Or you could go one step further like my good friend and colleague, Danielle Mowbray, and send home party essentials to a pal if they’re likely to experience a lockdown birthday.
Embrace the Zoom life
Like many people I didn’t choose the Zoom life, it chose me. Video calls have become part of our ‘new normal’. You’d be surprised how much of a mood booster it is to see your friends, family and colleagues versus just hearing their voices. We may all be a bit quizzed out, but a chat now and then really does help.
I hope this insight into my personal experience of being furloughed helps and if you have any further advice for your furloughed friends please engage with the discussion over on LinkedIn.