Well, what a year this has been.

It goes without saying that the challenges faced universally this year have been bizarre. If we’d be told this time last year that we’d be greeting friends and family from a 2 metre distance, stock piling loo roll and socialising through “our little squares” in 2020, we’d have laughed in disbelief.

A sudden change to the way we and our clients operate was incredibly daunting, but that fear wasn’t unique to Liz Lean PR. Upon reflection, it was the openness, transparency and measured response from our clients and colleagues that has enabled the agency to remain as steady and strong as we could have hoped for this year and for that, we are all incredibly grateful.

The continual reporting of deaths and restrictions throughout 2020 has taken its toll on our mental health and on morale. While the outlook for 2021 is still a little unclear, there’s an air of hope and the end seems to be in sight. So, instead of reflecting upon the turbulence we’ve all lived through, we wanted to take a moment to appreciate and acknowledge the great things worth noting from 2020.

Congratulations to Belinda, our recently Chartered Account Director

We’re not entirely sure how she juggled it all, but among the craziness of this year, Belinda Rastall our Account Director achieved Chartered Public Relations Practitioner status. Chartered status represents the highest standard of professional excellence and integrity. As well as reflecting Belinda’s breadth of experience and achievements, this achievement is a marker of her dedication to keeping pace in a fast-moving profession, remaining up to date on her knowledge and skills through the CPD programme and a rigorous full-day assessment.

Three new recruits for LLPR

We have also welcomed three new members to the LLPR team this year, including onboarding one remotely in the middle of ‘lockdown 1’. Lucy Mercer joined as Account Manager in early March at a very similar time to Stella Mills, who joined the team as Account Executive. In July, we remotely welcomed Brandon Danao, Account Executive, doing the usual meet and greets from our cosy WFH desks. Despite having had very little face to face time together, all three of our newest team members have gelled into our culture and have succeeded within their roles and built great rapport with their clients.

Leila was promoted to Business and Account Manager

Having shown dedication to the business and its continued success, particularly in the face of challenge, and demonstrated key skills to progress within the business, Leila Willingham was promoted from Development Executive to Business & Account Manager in November this year. In her new role, Leila is responsible for managing a variety of client accounts across a variety of sectors including hospitality, leisure, eCommerce, tech and retail.

Under the business management element of the role, she supports the agency leadership team on business matters such as the vision for LLPR, new business, culture and forward planning. With a deep-rooted and personal understanding of the agency and its values, Leila is well placed to support across different aspects of the business.

A sunny day spent visioning

We did manage to squeeze in a full day of face-to face time though and we couldn’t have timed it more perfectly. It was the first day since early March that our entire team had congregated in one place. We met at Sculpture by the Lakes in the heart of the Dorset countryside on that blissful, warm week in mid-September.

There was no better setting for the day of contemplation, honesty and forward thinking. We spent the day reflecting on what we have learnt individually and as a business through the pandemic, discussing how we can use the opportunities to grow and improve.

The day comprised discussion and the sharing of thoughts and ideas on where we grow from here. It was a well-needed moment, particularly ahead of what has been a challenging winter, to instil faith and confidence that Liz Lean PR is secure in its direction and is in a position to be excited for the future, not fear it.

A successful adaptation to remote working

Having embraced remote working so well internally and benefitted from better connectivity with clients, the opportunity arose to challenge our thinking on our working practises. As a result of weighing up all the pros, cons and evaluating the nuances that come with working from home, we successfully launched our new LLPR 1-2-3 model earlier in the year. This model is based on the principles of remaining as one collaborative and fair place to work, with two office days for all team members and three days of flexibility.

While COVID-19 restrictions have prevented us from living by this model in full over the last few months, we are confident that this is the way forward for us. LLPR 1-2-3 brings immense benefits to our team, clients and agency culture, while still ensuring we deliver the highest level of quality service we pride ourselves on.

You can read more on the LLPR 1-2-3 model here.

New projects, new connections and new prospects

We have been very fortunate this year to have been able to support some fantastic brands on their PR and communications for the first time.

To name a few, we worked closely with Passenger to launch their latest product, myTrip – a mobile ticketing and tracking app which offers live information on bus passenger levels, improving customer confidence in the ability to social distance. Our activity reached over 1 million potential users and operators and assisted in the sale of tickets through the app.

It has also been a pleasure to work with Peter and the team at the Pear at Parley, Simon, Sue and team at Ouch TT and everyone at Medworx.

We have really enjoyed getting to know the team at BV Dairy and supporting on the announcement of some very exciting news and it was a pleasure to work with Bradley Williams from Unique Group, too.

Celebrating client successes

A key thing which has made this year so bearable for the LLPR team is being able to play a small part in celebrating some huge successes with our clients. In amongst a year of uncertainty and confusion, we’ve felt immense pride to represent such incredible, resilient brands.

It has been a pleasure to welcome OnBuy back to the LLPR client portfolio, especially during a year of such epic success. With eCommerce booming off the back of the pandemic this year, OnBuy has literally rocketed in terms of growth. It now employs over 60 members of staff and has recently announced 605 per cent year to date growth. You may have spotted OnBuy on the TV this winter, after it launched its first national TV advertising campaign across ITV channels. We’re super excited to see OnBuy take on the world (quite literally) next year.

We are so incredibly proud to work with Hall & Woodhouse which has continued to support its communities in such a huge way this year. The Dorset-based family brewer truly is a beacon of doing the right thing and has demonstrated its values ten-fold during such a challenging year. From cancelling Business Partner rent, to offering emergency funding for charities through its Community Chest initiative, to raising money by breaking pub quiz world records, the entire team at Hall & Woodhouse has gone above and beyond throughout the pandemic. We were also excited to support in the opening of The Holly Blue in Basingstoke and in the quick launch of the “Hall & Woodhaus Alpine Bars”, which opened for the first time this winter to offer guests a safe and festive outdoor experience.

Paultons Park celebrated a huge award win in the summer and was named one of the world’s top ten amusement parks in  the Tripadvisor 2020 Travellers Choice awards. The family theme park also retained its title of the UK’s number one amusement park for the fifth year running. Following that big achievement this year, the LLPR team is very excited to finally see the park’s newest attraction, Tornado Springs, open in March 2021.

Daish’s Holidays is celebrating three national awards and the successful acquisition of Robinsons Holidays, in what has been a challenging and turbulent year for the travel and tourism industry. The acquisition of Robinsons Holidays is also in addition the acquisition of the Esplandade Hotel in Scarborough earlier this year.

On the trends of acquisitions, Haskins Garden Centres acquired its fifth site in Farnham at the start of the year and welcomed Forest Lodge Garden Centre and Birdworld to its portfolio. At a similar time, the family-owned business opened the doors to its brand new Snowhill centre near Crawley.

Talbot Village Trust launched its £1 million COVID Support Fund in April. The LLPR team secured front page coverage on the Bournemouth Echo and support from local MPs and the Dorset High Sheriff.

Bournemouth & Poole College received a record number of adults enrolling onto its free adult online courses during the first lockdown. More than 500 learners registered to develop a new skill and gain a qualification between March and June 2020, on one or more of The College’s 24 free online courses. This is a 44% rise in learners compared to the same period last year.

And finally (we could go on all day talking about how great our clients are, but we have a word count to watch!), we’re super excited to have been a part of the Kingland project in Poole! Kingland is a new shopping district set to rejuvenate the town centre and to reinvent Poole’s retail offering. Legal & General has committed to provide 10 retail units to start-up and independent businesses with no rent or business rates to be paid for two years. This is to kick-start an unparalleled shopping experience which brings together the cream of Dorset’s most innovative young retail entrepreneurs in one exciting environment in the town centre.

End of the Dorset Chamber Presidency era for Liz

In February 2021, Liz’s two-year Dorset Chamber presidency will conclude.

Recently, in collaboration with Dorset Chamber and other local stakeholder, Liz has launched a wellbeing initiative for the 3am club – the business leaders who are awake at all hours of the night feeling the responsibility and weight of their roles. The platform is for Dorset Chamber members to champion their supportive and emotionally intelligent workplaces while acknowledging the stresses and strains that comes with leading a business, giving them the opportunity to ask for help when needed without judgement.

In September, Liz celebrated her first year as a British Chamber of Commerce Board Member and is looking forward to being able to dedicate more time to this national role as her presidency wraps up in the spring.

You can read more from Liz on the conclusion of her presidency in the latest Dorset Business Focus Magazine.  

We are looking forward to what we hope will be an exciting and prosperous 2021. Even in the most turbulent times, the company of our trusted and compassionate colleagues never fails to be inspiring and nurturing for all. We are incredibly proud, as a team, of how we have performed this year and recognise that without the team resolve and spirit, this year would have been a lot tougher.

As a team, we’re committed to our clients, colleagues and self-progression. As a business, we’re dedicated to remaining relevant in a fast-moving industry, continuing to deliver high-class service to client that we pride ourselves on, working hard to protect and grow their reputations on a day-to-day basis. We take pride in that this service and camaraderie hasn’t faltered, even in one of the toughest years in LLPR history.

We’re ending this year happy with how LLPR has weathered the pandemic and pleased to be looking ahead and excited for what is around the corner.

See you (maybe even face to face for a change!) in 2021!