Marketing Briefing: ‘Hard for parents’: As in-person learning returns, marketers and agency execs have to give flexibility

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Parents across the country are prepping for yet another unusual school year. However, this year,  it’s not another round of Zoom classes to contend with but in-person learning, mask mandates up in the air and quarantining at home if exposed. 

Dealing with the realities of returning to school when many school-aged children aren’t yet approved to receive the vaccine means another year of needed flexibility for working parents. Managing potential changes on a dime — schools have told parents they could go back to virtual learning or may need students to quarantine at home if exposed — means agency execs and marketers will have to once again trust parents to manage their own work schedules and allow them the time needed to deal with any changes.

“You have to implement flexibility and understanding,” said Amanda Cosindas, director of marketing and communications at creative agency The Many. Last summer, Cosindas moved across the country from California to Massachusetts so that she could more easily manage her job as well as her son’s education with in-person learning. Cosindas noted that parents’ perspectives will vary based on previous experience and that having done in-person learning last year that it “can go well.” 

Valerie Moizel, founder and CEO/COO of Woo, an LA-based creative agency, has two daughters returning to in-person learning this year. Going back comes with some anxiety that schools could “call any minute to say they changed their minds” to switch to a “virtual learning environment,” said Moizel. “It’s hard for parents. You have to retrain your brain to shuffle it all. You also have to figure out how to adjust and give employees’ the ability to adjust as they need to.” 

Agency execs say they are working to communicate to parents that they will give employees the accommodations needed should they have to make shifts to their schedules to deal with school changes. 

“This year for back-to-school we’re being as flexible and accommodating as much as we can which means that the team picks up the slack when our team members have to be present for parent-teacher conferences, first days of school, orientation, COVID updates and more,” said Pilaar Terry, managing partner of MC Brand Communications. “Our support for working parents is unwavering and that comes through not just in our policies but day-to-day as well.”

Barb Rozman-Stokes, chief talent officer of Campbell Ewald, echoed that sentiment: “Quite simply, we trust our people to do the right thing for our clients, each other and themselves in whatever form that takes rather than working in a rigid, one-size fits all structure. This is one of the best ways for us to expand the diversity and equity we want to achieve as we look to create new and different ways to engage our talent and consumers.”

3 Questions with Superhuman head of marketing Johnny Jiang

As Covid cases go back up, what impact will that have on your team’s plans to return to the office?

As the COVID landscape evolves, we are remaining transparent with our employees about how safety is our number one concern. We softly reopened our San Francisco office (Superhuman is a an email app) earlier this summer and have made it completely optional to return. There are two key things we’ve put in place to ensure our office is as safe as possible. [First, our vaccine policy:] We’re requiring individuals be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to visit and work out of our office. The primary deciding factor here is safety; the data available to us made it clear that requiring vaccines would allow us to create the safest possible experience. [Second is our] mask guidance: We’re following local guidance and asking individuals to wear masks in our highest traffic areas. 

With offices reopening, what’s the plan to create equal work opportunities and culture for both remote and in-office staffers?

With our team continuing to grow across North America, Superhuman is focused on maintaining a level playing field and inclusive culture for all employees regardless of location. As a fully remote employee based in Seattle, I understand how important it is to implement policies that ensure remote employees feel connected and have the same opportunities as those that choose to work from the office. For example, our new hire on-boarding experience was completely redesigned with live trainings and micro-learnings to quickly familiarize new employees with our company culture and empower them to immediately make an impact. During my weekly marketing team meetings, I also like to include intentional moments of connection where we reserve time to ask non-work related questions that allow remote and in-person team members to get to know one another.

There were a lot of lessons learned for remote work during the pandemic. Any lessons your team learned that you’ll keep post-pandemic?

We have to be proactive about building and maintaining the connections that we take for granted when working in the same office. We’ve also found that many people are overwhelmed with the increase in digital communication since the start of the pandemic. As a result, we’ve been very intentional about utilizing the strengths of different forms of communication, and knowing when to switch between each option. For example, we use email when we expect more thoughtful asynchronous responses from our recipients, Slack for quick synchronous discussions, and jump on calls to quickly resolve Slack discussions when they start to get out of hand. — Kimeko McCoy

By the numbers

Even in light of steadily increasing costs and data privacy issues, social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram are seemingly still key to digital marketing. To follow online shoppers, many of whom now push digital shopping carts thanks to pandemic lockdown, platforms like Pinterest and most recently TikTok have rolled out shoppable, e-commerce features. As more advertisers look to reach shoppers across social media, marketing software company Dash Hudson has released its Global Digital Insights Report Q2 2021. Here are the key data points: 

  • 81% of consumers discover new products on Instagram and use it to make purchase decisions.
  • People look at video content 5 times longer than static images on both Facebook and Instagram.
  • Over half of Gen Z consumers won’t click on an ad. If they do, they prefer Instagram. And 73% of Gen Z want to be contacted about new products via these platforms. — Kimeko McCoy

Quote of the week

“It feels like we’re kind of being nudged to almost think about a post-upfront upfront. Getting things locked in as far in advance as possible.”

— Bill Durrant, president of media agency Exverus Media, told senior media editor Tim Peterson when asked about the current TV scatter market.

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