Irene Manyk

Today, is the 16th of April, 2020. I had to double, triple check the date because each day moulds into the other and the months go by quicker than a Love Island cast member’s career.

How did we get here? I write from post redundancy, home schooling, and currently by law we cannot leave the house unless it fits the sixteen necessary reasons.

 

Walking through Bondi Beach this morning really reminded me of the early 90s with people walking by wearing low-riding sweatpants. Once upon a time, the words 'Covid-19' or 'Coronavirus', 'Rona' and 'social distancing' did not exist. In this unworldly time the essential stores are the only ones that still serve, families from the community are outside more than ever before, and the retail stores and restaurants are either shut for business until further notice or available for take-away. 

The Bondi-siders patiently queuing up for takeaway coffees and ham and cheese croissants appears to be very reminiscent of the primary school canteen lines – although, there's no dibs as you must adhere to the 1.5 meter distance rule. The Bondi bubble – and the rest of the world – has apologetically gone back to basics.

 

Four or so weeks ago, I was sitting at my desk servicing my clients as their publicist in a normal capacity. While Covid-19 was quietly making its way across the globe, not once did anyone in the agency ever have an inkling or thought that just in a few days our lives, the lives of our clients and the entire world would be flipped upside down and inside out. 

As days went on, and the reality of Covid-19 started taking effect, I came to my desk everyday in panic. Strategies I put in place just the day before no longer made sense the next day as laws and mindsets were changing at a rapid pace – and it was bloody scary. Friday the 13th of March really lived up to its name this year.

 

As a publicist in an agency, we worked together to strategise and adapt, but crisis management was not even strategic enough for the ‘unprecedented era’. As days went on, and laws continued to change, so did my role within the agency. It became unrequired and, well, that was that. And almost one million Australians know this sentence all too well.

 

Then there’s the role of being a parent. There was no doubt in my mind that I wasn’t going to pull my son out from preschool, so as quickly as you can say Covid-19, I changed roles from PR to PReschool, and my son was now my student (God help me!). I won’t bore you with the homeschooling situation – we’ve all seen the memes of the now turned alcoholic parents. Life changed very quickly for everyone in some sort of capacity, and unless you are directly in an industry or have a business it’s hard to know what’s actually happening on the other side of the fence. However, in true publicist style, I have been closely monitoring the market and keeping in conversation with my friends in the numerous industries.

 

I want to give you a real understanding of how two particular industries have responded and adapted. I spoke with the incredibly talented artist Dina Broadhurst, and my mogul and fashion powerhouse, Nikki Campbell – director of SIR The Label.

 

This is the question I asked both of them: "Did Covid-19 affect your business, and if so, could you explain the strategy for adapting accordingly? Additionally, with the disadvantage of not knowing what the world will look like post Covid-19, is there a new plan on how the business will move forward?"

 

Dina Broadhurst:

"It hasn’t affected my business financially so much, but it has changed the way I’m working at the moment. My weeks have become much more production-focused rather than hands-on creative. I have needed to do more deliveries or visits to my printer, with paper stock delays and limited opening hours as well as hold ups with couriers. 

 

“I’ve had to be more prepared and dedicated to that side of my business to ensure that there are minimal delays to my clients. Also, a lot of materials are sold out or low in stock that I usually work with. I would love more free time in my days to be creative and experiment, but I’m also so grateful to be able to keep my production team working and busy with orders in this period as well as to still be able to produce for my clients during this time (as all of my works are made to order) with something special to have in their homes to inspire them and make them feel optimistic.

"Having an online gallery rather than a pay iso gallery space has been invaluable during this time. As for the future, we don’t know how it will look or run but I’m always open to adapting. Even without Covid-19, the world is always changing. Instagram might be replaced with a new way, Iphones may be replaced – who knows? So, to have that superpower of being adaptable and to stay on top of those changes and to continually learn and grow is essential to any business, period."

 

Nikki Campbell:

"Covid-19 has definitely had an effect on our business. We have had to shut the doors to our retail stores and adapt daily to the changing situation. A lot of our business is overseas, so the situation has meant we have brought a lot of things back here to Australia and have had to slow down our next deliveries and collections for the remainder of the year. We have been working remotely and have converted my dining room into a design studio so we can finish our R21 collection. 

 

“We are shifting our focus toward a virtual sell season for R21 and potentially moving forward. Internally, we are working extremely hard to give our customer the best experience of the brand online and keep our SIR community inspired at this time. We are still adapting and learning daily as it all unfolds, and trying to appreciate this slower pace and time to create.”

 

In true Australian style, we have really come together in support during this time, and there is no doubt we will continue to do so. If you are raking your brain on ways that you may be able to support both Dina and Nikki – or any Australian business – and can’t make a direct purchase at this time, support their social media channels, subscribe to their database, give them a like, double click a photo. All of these small gestures are a huge support for a small business right now.

 

Professionally, this has been an absolute game changer. Personally, this has been an absolute game changer. Whether this virus is natural or man-made, I can’t help but feel that we get a second chance to have a good, long look at ourselves, regroup, and remember to be kind and enjoy our lives. See you on the flip side.