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#ComeBackStronger: spearheading growth and remaining positive during trying times

For our latest #ComeBackStronger blog, we connected with our fearless leader, Laura Mashiter, on how she’s powering through the pandemic. We delved into what she’s doing to remain optimistic, how she’s spearheading growth during challenging times and how she’s spinning her key learnings from the last few months into positives.

Refresh launched almost 11 years ago and has been delivering outstanding results for clients since. Laura is an industry heavyweight, leading many successful, award-winning campaigns during her time in PR. She’s passionate about her work and is committed to delivering first-class results, to make a positive impact on client’s organisations.

Here’s what she had to say about navigating the current climate, taking the future into her own hands and how she’s ensuring Refresh continues to thrive during times of uncertainty.

How are you accelerating company growth in the current climate?

First and foremost, we’re here for our existing clients. Over the coming weeks and months we’re aware that many will want to look at their market positioning, from making simple tweaks to whole reviews. PR plans will have changed and we’ll need to respond. We know that this means we will need to be flexible and we’re looking forward to being there for each client every step of the way.

Secondly, we have been clearer than ever before with our team in terms of the aims for Refresh for the year ahead. Having us all working to the same goals will give us strength and focus over the coming months.

Finally, we champion PR and marketing day in, day out. Of course we do, it’s what we do. But it’s also what we genuinely believe in. During lockdown we worked hard on our new brand, with the launch of our new website at the start of July 2020. Importantly we spent a lot of time ensuring it represented the Refresh of 2020, meaning we’re well and truly ready for new, likeminded clients to come on board.

I’m both happy and relieved that we undertook this task during the downtime that we had – we’ve got a great platform from which to now tell our story. After all, PR and marketing are critical at all times and without them, how can a company expect to be seen, heard and understood?

Where do you see your future opportunities lying?

Within all of our core sectors there are opportunities to work with brands who need to increase awareness, reposition, manage a crisis situation (and more).  

The Government’s Green Home Grant will hopefully (when it’s ironed out) galvanise the home improvement market which is at the heart of our work in the built environment sector. We’re looking forward to working with brands needing support to accelerate out of lockdown. Unfortunately, the legislation won’t cover the whole sector, but it will have a strong knock on effect.

The tech sector continued to move at lightening speed throughout lockdown, with a constant stream of news about funding and deals. The sector is huge, and one in which we have a strong legacy, so it’s really up to us to grow our brand here.

Finally, the food and drink sector has had a challenging few months - with key worker status for many across the sector, March saw exponential sales growth as panic buying across the UK set in. But as the dust has settled, many once certain lines have been removed from supermarket shelves, and brands are about to face challenging meetings with buyers. Investment in PR and marketing is definitely one avenue that many will be investigating, and again we’re looking forward to talking to more companies very soon.

In general, even in the sectors most affected, there are shining examples of resilience and tenacity coming through. We all want the quickest recovery possible and most companies I talk to are digging in and simply getting on with it.

What are you most optimistic about?

I like change, so I like the idea (and challenge) of not quite knowing what’s on the cards for the coming few months. I like the fact we’ll get a chance to refine and develop client’s PR campaigns, to be able to re-focus on the critical business issues and build their business back up alongside them.

I’m also overwhelmed with the team effort that’s gone into where we are today – some long hours went in during lockdown from some very committed people and that’s why Refresh is where it is today. When everyone has had some much-needed time off, I’m really optimistic about where this team can go.

What are you looking forward to implementing/changing?

This is easy – getting the team back together again. We’re not a group of freelancers working together, we’re a team. A team with members who thrive and bounce off each other. Generally, the type of personality attracted to a career in PR is one which likes being in the company of others. We like being part of a team so we’re all looking forward to creative days back in the office.

What opportunities have you seen arise?

Lots! I was recently on a NatWest Power Panel and listened to four amazing young businesses which are just getting off the ground (so no matter what stage of business you’re in, it’s possible right now!).

We’ve also recently won four new clients, showing us that we know more is around the corner. I’ve had more time to focus on these new clients personally and that’s helped me develop great relationships with them, truly understanding their business and their objectives. Clients are very transparent at the moment - they need to be in order for us to help them effectively. This makes a massive difference to the recommendations we suggest and just how much we can add extra value further down the line.

How are you remaining positive?

As a business-owner there’s not really any room for negativity. Focusing on the negatives won’t get any business very far. Of course, I have ‘blips’ but there’s little point in being negative and dwelling on the past – it’s done and gone, so move on. It’s crucial to seek out the positives and the future opportunities, wherever they may be, and then follow those.

Refresh is now entering its third major challenge in just a decade. Formed out of the ashes of the 2008 financial crash, and coming off the back of the Brexit vote, we’ve grown resilient. We’ve done this by positively evolving and this time around will be no different.

It also helps when we have a self-appointed wellness person in the office who flatly refuses to be negative in any given situation – it’s a bit infectious.

How are you maintaining a work/life balance and ensuring family time?

It’s been the toughest time of my career. With a three-year-old at home deserving my time while not being allowed to play with any friends, plus a business to run, and constant changing Government legislation, it’s meant some extremely long days and nights navigating the unknown. I know I’m certainly not alone.

The team members that worked through lockdown are taking their well-deserved holidays at the moment, and next week it’ll be my turn – so a staycation to Abersoch is just around the corner.

With more knowns and a few less uncertainties, it’s making it easier to plan ahead and take some time off. I’m especially making sure we enjoy the weekends as a family more now, keeping the shopping to a mid-week task so we can spend full days out together. It’s been amazing to find new places to go on our doorstep which we’re doing each weekend - we got up Shining Tor in the Peak District for a walk last weekend too.

What have been your key learnings from the last few months?

  • No two people are meant to spend THAT amount of time together in such close proximity
  • I can make some tough decisions in crazy situations when needed
  • I should listen to my gut feeling more as it’s not usually wrong
  • 5pm Government briefings – including major new announcements - aren’t ideal for people who have been juggling childcare and work since 6.30am
  • We have a fantastic accountant
  • We’re very lucky to have a non-exec director who I can call on day and night
  • I’m even luckier to work with a team of people who have stuck by Refresh throughout, who have gone above and beyond in difficult circumstances, and who are now rolling up their sleeves ready to take on the rest of 2020. Incredibly lucky

What else are you doing to prepare for the future?

We’re preparing by making sure as many members of the senior team will be available for clients as possible to ensure they receive that experienced consultancy. This will mean additional training and development, from knowledge sharing on industry issues to specialist skill development. Encouraging everyone to support each other that little bit more is key.

Our new campaign ‘Come Back Stronger’ is now launched. We’re also focusing on team wellness and have incorporated into the same campaign different elements including team visits to areas that are Manchester’s best kept secrets – follow us on Instagram for more on this.

If you’re looking for support on navigating the current climate or for tips on how to communicate through this period, get in touch.

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