By Nick Gold, MD, Speakers Corner
In March 2020, things looked pretty bleak for the events industry. The COVID-19 pandemic had forced people to postpone their events, workshops, and awards ceremonies – and then eventually cancel them altogether. As a speaker bureau, our business had depended on these events for the last 20 years – only for them to be extinguished in a matter of weeks.
The foundations of our business were pretty shaken, and so were we.
Luckily, it didn’t take too long for the industry to discover a new way of doing things. Within a few weeks, virtual events had become the norm. It was more important than ever for businesses to create ways for teams to connect with each other, and for leaders to communicate with their employees. As people gathered online for virtual quizzes, religious services, and cocktail parties,leaders around the world started to rethink their business strategies from a virtual point of view.
Suddenly, we saw a way through the pandemic.
Rediscovering our business
Every business reaches a point where they have to pause and take stock of who they are and where they’re going – and Speakers Corner is no exception. We always knew we would reach this stage – but the pandemic forced our hand.
When the reality of the new virtual world kicked in, we made a discovery that changed the course of our business. We realised that we had coordinated speakers for more virtual events than any other bureau in the industry – and that meant we were experts.
With this realisation came the understanding that it wasn’t enough to just be experts – we had to prove it. Not only that, we also wanted to prove we were impartial, confident, and great at what we do. That was when we decided to rebrand Speakers Corner.
Crucially, we never saw our rebrand as a reinvention of our business. We had thousands of happy clients and inspirational speakers on our books – so we knew it was vital not to jeopardise our existing relationships in the pursuit of new ones. Instead, our rebrand would demonstrate how our business has matured. It was a chance to show who we are – without losing the heritage and value of our achievements over the last 20 years.
Creating a brand our staff care about
As any brand leader or business owner knows, rebranding can be a prickly exercise. That’s why we saw it as an opportunity to re-engage with our staff from the beginning. We wanted to give every member of our team ownership over our brand, so it could evolve into something they were proud to be a part of.
We wanted our brand to be emotive, engaging, and to serve a purpose beyond the brand the outside world sees. By involving our team in the process sooner, we got buy-in from them more quickly, which helped us from both an emotional and a practical standpoint. Every team member knew the practical expectations of our rebrand – when decisions needed to be made, and who was responsible for making them – and, in doing so, they’ve helped build a brand they care about.
From a management perspective, we also learned how to take critical feedback from our staff. We let our team debate the rebrand without management involvement, giving them the space to share their true feelings. It wasn’t always easy, but we’ve created a culture where our staff are unafraid to challenge us, and we’re unafraid to challenge ourselves. The result: a brand our team owns, enjoys, lives and breathes.
Redefining our values
For many people – and businesses – the past 20 months have been about purpose. It’s why so many people have changed their jobs in what the media are calling the Great Resignation. As part of our rebrand, we wanted to rediscover the purpose of Speakers’ Corner – to understand and embody our true values.
Rebranding brought clarity to our company values. Before, our values focused on delivering excellent results – which we do – but they didn’t outline what we believe in. Now, our values define us, and help us better understand what we’re trying to achieve.
Finding our true values was both challenging and invigorating. We had to decide – as a team – the code that we live by, and how we aspire to work. After much deliberation, we decided on four key words that would determine the future of Speakers Corner: creativity, impartiality, responsiveness, and support.
Reconnecting with customers
Our values aren’t new – they’re just more definitive. But with them in place, it’s been important to communicate to our customers that our dedication to impartiality and great customer service is stronger than ever. Our biggest strength has always been the way we harness our expertise to source and sign the perfect speaker for every individual event – and we wanted this to shine through in our rebrand.
In the current climate, nothing can be taken for granted – as the initial throes of the pandemic showed us, even the most successful businesses can be rocked to the core. While this has made it a tough time to rebrand, it’s also been the perfect opportunity. It’s given us a glimpse of a future that’s veering away from the real world towards the virtual one, and allowed us to position ourselves as true experts in our field. Our customers trust us to deliver – and we always do.
Leadership lessons from a pandemic rebrand
Many people are naturally averse to change, so it’s natural to face a little resistance to any rebrand. One of the biggest challenges we’ve faced as a management team is relinquishing our legacy of ownership – we wanted to create a brand that our staff and customers are as invested in as we are, which meant opening up the conversation to include them.
As a result, our post-pandemic brand isn’t just truer to who we are – it’s better. We know who we are, who our customers are, and how to be more than just a speakers’ bureau. Our staff are passionate about our brand, and have the ambition and expertise to find fantastic speakers for all occasions.