Strength Together In Crisis
How Paul Crooks Advertising harnessed the power of community
What do you do when your industry freezes, and everyone stops spending? Paul knew it could be the end of his advertising business. Even more concerning was seeing those in his business networks falling to pieces in the aftershock. How do you help when everyone’s hands are tied in the same way as yours?
At the Centre of the Buzz
Paul has metaphorically ‘jumped out of the plane’ more than once and landed on his feet. One of his most successful business ventures started with him literally walking the hard yards from business to business, pitching his idea, and making new contacts.
It worked because he’s wired for connecting people.
It took three years to get the Buzz business directory off the ground. As it gained momentum in the close-knit community of Albany Creek, Brisbane, curious rumours circulated about who it was, exactly, that published the glossy directory delivered to their doors. The cover was full of faces they recognised, which led to its true success: local business thrived on it.
That was in 2012. Today, I’m sitting in the suburban office of Paul Crooks Advertising, which offers traditional advertising services as well as marketing consultancy. Today, Buzz is distributed in multiple regions across greater Brisbane. Paul’s laid-back manner and regard for what I’m writing give clues as to how he’s become the super-connector that he is. He has a genuine interest in people and their pathways, which might be why his advice was sought after in a crisis.
When COVID hit
In March 2020, the first month of pandemic pandemonium for Australian businesses, the advertising market froze. Paul’s usual clients, including the big spenders, reeled from severe restrictions and marketing campaigns came to a screeching halt.
‘I’ve never experienced anything like it,’ Paul said.
‘The global recession was not the same, because at that time every business had different resources and challenges. This was new because everyone stopped at once. Nationally, globally even, everyone was in the same boat.’
Paul was acutely aware that his business was in jeopardy. With no government supports yet in place, he began answering tough questions from his trusted staff about future possibilities if no work came in. In the meantime, he looked for alternate tasks to keep them busy.
Making It Work
Fielding calls from business owners in his network, Paul acted as a sounding board. Concerned about those within his reach who were ‘losing it’ because of the high stakes of future uncertainty, Paul himself was also seeking wisdom. He contacted several senior business people from his inner circle to get a feel for their predictions and how they were navigating the market disruption.
‘I thought I’d better say something to the business groups, so I recorded a video that went onto the Facebook page.’ This comment was typical of Paul’s understated manner but, in his address, I saw him encourage people to make the most of lockdown by spending time with family, to check on other members of the group, and to support each other.
He reminded the group that they would get through to the other side.
After Easter, Paul rang Buzz businesses to check in. He discovered that tradies, deemed ‘essential services’, were doing well and could even work in people’s homes.
It gave Paul an idea, and he took the handbrake off distribution of the pending Buzz publication.
This would be a special edition.
It would let the community know about active essential services and it would encourage support of local businesses.
It was a roaring success. Businesses that advertised were flooded with queries and most were booked out for the next two months. A winter directory followed, with the bold title of ‘Let’s Help Local Business Get Back on Their Feet!’ Its centre page showcased personal messages from community business owners with their stories of people standing together in mutual support.
In the editorial, Paul wrote, ‘Who could have imagined what we were going to go through and yet here we are and I have never been more proud to be part of a community and a country that has banded together to fight an invisible enemy that has changed the way we live.’
Getting Strategic about Business
Disruption to normal business gave Paul the luxury of time to think more strategically about his own business. With a background in television, he wanted to develop more video media for mainstream advertising.
It was a move that would speed up his marketing opportunities exponentially.
The video advertising that kicked off during lockdown went viral, with some videos reaching 90 000 hits.
The pandemic also gave Paul time to set up an online version of Buzz, which had always been on the To Do list. Buzz Trades and Services website is now up and running, reaching a wider audience.
The Resilience Factor
The Power of Community
Paul is not new to big life challenges. Arriving in Australia knowing only his future wife, he built social and business networks from scratch. He later survived the global financial crisis of 2008. In Paul’s opinion, taking the big jump from leaving a corporate job to starting his own business was far more hair-raising than facing COVID-19. With these experiences behind him, Paul knew he could get through the pandemic.
What worried him most were the others in his ‘tribe’.
Facing the reality of businesses within his network having to close, the greatest source of strength for Paul was the power of connection. He was encouraged by those coping well and he used the network to help those struggling. He and others helped obtain business grants to keep other businesses afloat. Seeing businesses support each other, like providing free services, spurred Paul on. ‘It was very positive—we did all look after each other. I felt I wasn’t on my own.’
Tips from Paul
‘Surround yourself with people who know what they are doing,’ Paul says. You never know when being in community will be your lifeboat. The give-and-take created within a healthy network has tangible effects, especially in a crisis.
Image credit: TheDigitalArtist from Pixabay.
Life is easier for those who can adapt
Paul says, ‘Most people have to be pushed out of the plane. They don’t do it voluntarily.’ For some, just the thought of change creates anxiety. Paul could see the panic set in for these individuals, threatening the end of their businesses. He talked several people through it, sometimes with daily check-ins, helping them not to fear what hadn’t yet happened but to embrace change.
‘Always be prepared to throw out the plan you’ve got. If you can do that, you can cope with life a lot easier. If you’re set on one thing and it doesn’t work… People that adapt are the ones that are successful.’
Move with the times
If he hadn’t learned to move with changing technology, Paul would still be laying out pieces of paper on an art board to draft an advert.
“It sounds weird now, but that was in my lifetime.”
Today, most of Paul’s advertising is online. Pandemic changes accelerated the next jump—perfecting video marketing. And it’s paid off.
“If you still want to do the old stuff, you’ll get left behind.”
Once JobKeeper support went live, many clients used their increased disposable income and time to focus on marketing. Websites by Paul Crooks Advertising are now looking slick with videos that capture the passion of business owners in a way that words and images can’t.
Though there was a momentary scare on whether his business would survive the pandemic, Paul Crooks Advertising is now busier than ever. The local business network is also stronger than ever, having gained strength from mutual support through hard times.
See For Yourself
If you’d like a flavour of the Brisbane-based network that keeps Paul so connected, check out the new Buzz Trades and Services website.
For queries on advertising and marketing services, or the Buzz directory, contact Paul Crooks Advertising:
Phone: (07) 3264 2988