First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Caitlin Bartley: Hanging in there. We are bunkered down in our house in San Francisco. The current wildfires have made things even more interesting, but keeping busy with lots of house projects and exploring new recipes. Overall, thankful we have our health and happiness. It’s certainly been a wild ride!
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Cred
Caitlin Bartley: I started Cred just over 5 years ago with a mission of providing a service to the PR industry since many agencies choose not to focus on speaking and events. Our purpose is to build thought-leaders, and we do that by connecting clients to the right speaking opportunities and helping clients host events. We have placed more speakers at events than any other agency across the globe, and pride ourselves on having a finger on the pulse of the event industry’s biggest trends and topics.
How does Cred innovate?
Caitlin Bartley: We’ve overcome many challenges in our time, but have really been tested to the limits this year with COVID-19. With all live events on hold, we’ve had to expand our business to incorporate more online speaking opportunities, such as podcasts and webinars, and are now leading the charge for all things virtual events and thought leadership. Since we’re connected to many of the top industry conferences worldwide, we’ve been able to survey partners and compile an enormous amount of data so we can now be a resource advising companies on top virtual platforms to host an event, best practices for audience engagement, tips for virtual speaking, etc.. Like most agencies, clients are crucial to our success.
When COVID first hit, we started by sending personal emails to every client, checking in on their business, and asking how we can support them through this time. This was very early on when there was so much uncertainty about how COVID would impact; we intended to be as supportive and flexible as possible. We set out to make ourselves as sticky as possible by offering additional value adds we thought might be beneficial, including hosting our own webinars to promote speakers, offering to manage social content, create speaker websites, and more. Looking forward, we’ve adapted our services to include more flexible, short-term options to eliminate some barriers we were experiencing in new business conversations.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Caitlin Bartley: There are certainly some companies and industries thriving during this pandemic, but (unfortunately!) We were not one of them. For us, increased communication has been key to clients, the industry at large, and internally to our organization. For clients and partners, we increased the frequency of our company newsletter to weekly vs. monthly, and every employee stepped up to contribute more timely content to the blog. We built a COVID page that compiles content and other interesting updates and information.
We also started a networking roundtable – credConnects – for PR and Marketing professionals to come togetherbi-monthly and discuss challenges they’re facing. Internally, our goal is for employees to understand our business’s current state through weekly updates presented live during our All-hands meetings and then via email. This year has also presented many challenges beyond the pandemic, and we’ve offered additional paid time off approximately once/month as mental health days as, in addition to encouraging employees to use their vacation days even if they’re unable to travel.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Caitlin Bartley: I’ve faced a ton of challenging decisions, especially around budget cuts, planning and forecasting, and employee engagement. Key lessons learned include being as transparent as possible, communicate the reasoning around the decisions, the implications discussed, and what it means for individuals and the business. Also, don’t be afraid to show compassion and vulnerability. I’ve really been stretched and forced as a leader in ways I’ve never experienced, but overall proud of how we’ve communicated and approached the pandemic and confident in the progress and growth we’re starting to experience.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and Cred in the future?
Caitlin Bartley: As many say, the most challenging times are the times the fiercest companies will thrive. I’m confident as a company that we will rally together to fight the battle and come out together on the other side of this pandemic stronger and closer than ever because of the obstacles we’ve overcome. In terms of coping with stress and anxiety, a supportive network of mentors and friends, and at home, the gym, and a handful of wine club memberships certainly help!
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Caitlin Bartley: Our competitors can also be frenemiesas we often partner with other PR firms and work togetherfor a client. As a leader, I try not to worry about what other companies are doing knock us off our path; we have a vision for what we want to achieve and a clear plan to get us there.
Your final thoughts?
Caitlin Bartley: When the going gets rough, keep your trust and faith, and don’t stop fighting the fight.