This article was supposed to be published on the first week of 2021. As the days crept towards the middle of the month, our content team’s anxiety was almost reaching a full-blown panic.
A blog article detailing valuable insights from our managing director, Angela, was planned as a wrap-up of the year that was 2020, and a forecast of the year to come. The content team strategised early, booked the boss’ time for a quick chat, scheduled the appointment into the calendar, set several alerts… but something cropped up every single time. A client’s call, a staff meeting, a business pitch that overran, a trainer from an online course who delayed the lunch break, a networking session… she simply had no time.
“I don’t even have the time to drink water,” she mused as she hurriedly poured a glass for herself when we finally caught her on a Friday evening as the rest of the staff were packing up and heading home.
We gave her a pause to chug a few mouthfuls before shooting our questions. Time with Angela was right in front of us, and we grabbed it.
Finally, we’re speaking to the managing director of ENCE Marketing Group, who has obviously not had a slow or quiet 2020.
ENCE Marketing Group was established on 13 June 2007, and 2021 marks 15 years of this SME in the business. That is no mean feat for a homegrown marketing agency that has weathered various storms, and now the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We’re not really affected by the pandemic,” Angela asserts. That is a bold statement but one that can only be declared by a company that is agile, efficient, innovative and driven. The onslaught of Covid-19 has affected events, work arrangements, company budgets, marketing channels – in general, everything that was normal to us. Yet, the company adapted easily, and life went on.
Of course, it only seemed smooth on the surface. Since seven years ago, Angela, ever the advocate for transformation, was already introducing cloud-based processes and systems into the company’s SOP. Instituting change within the company, especially when there was no external force like a pandemic driving the change, was not easy but she was firm in her vision.
“The future is mobile and agile. Inertia is probably the worst thing to have as a marketing agency,” she observes.
With the company’s cloud-based processes, organised filing system and agile system in place, shifting to a work-from-home arrangement proved to be a smooth transition. She never imagined a fully remote work environment mandated by a global pandemic, but she ensured that the company’s agility always allowed for any situation.
“Communications is a difficult thing to systemise. You would imagine that it was more based in ideas, than numbers; reach than value; relationships than strategy; but it can be done and it has brought us, and our clients, to where we are today.”
“We see many examples of SMEs and PR firms remaining as boutique agencies where the team is kept small and business growth is always limited by resources. With the mindset of agility, we are able to cater work for a bigger team with an emphasis on communication and teamwork to get everyone on the same page.”
A team rowing the boat towards the same direction together is an analogy that she always uses.
“Over the years, we have managed to build an ENCE community where the staff share similar ideals despite vastly different backgrounds,” she says with pride.
In 2020, ENCE Marketing rolled out various schemes to help new and existing clients cope with the uncertain times.
The PR arm, Affluence PR, offered retainer clients a complimentary contract extension of two months, to help shoulder some of their clients’ business costs during the circuit breaker period.
In an act of solidarity for SME clients, the firm decided to offer as much support as they can to their clients in the most badly affected sectors, in retail and F&B. In April 2020 when the Circuit Breaker first kicked in, Affluence PR had already offered deferred payment schemes to clients that needed to conserve cash to keep their businesses afloat. Towards the end of the Circuit Breaker and after assessing its own finances and business continuity and viability, Affluence PR ascertained that it is in a stable position that will be able to support its clients and to help other SMEs tide over this period.
ENCE Marketing Group also launched a no-risk, guaranteed sales and new leads marketing package only for SMEs. This package is exclusively for SMEs that need to pivot their business to go digital, but lack the funds to do so.
“Our team is also fully committed to put in our maximum effort to help SMEs go digital,” Angela says. “Despite the perceived time savings of not having to travel to work, our team has actually been putting in longer hours to upgrade ourselves, learn new technologies and then pass on this knowledge to our clients. Besides the daily operational work, we are spending more time now to help clients build their online and digital marketing infrastructure. Government support in the past year has also been very helpful, and has enabled us to extend this help to clients.”
When asked for her predictions in the marketing, PR, events and design landscape for 2021, “digital branding” comes up frequently. “Brands are looking to create new identities for the online marketplace. They are motivated to innovate, create a new brand name, refresh their logo… it’s all about taking risks in 2021.”
One thing that stays the same, however, is her goal for the year ahead. “To do better” – which is something that she looks forward to doing every year.
We notice the time ticking away and her phone buzzing with more incoming messages and notifications. We decide to end our conversation here and dangled a last question on a somewhat more personal note.
“What was your biggest takeaway from 2020?”
“Always look for the silver lining.”
And that’s it. We think back about how we were worrying about the timeline of the article, but felt comforted by the fact that maybe it came at the right time. It all fell into place like how 2020 did.