In Startup SAFARI Virtual Experience, Ondrej SVOBODA gave the floor to Mathilde Mignon, founder of RP Digital, a digital communication agency specialized in tourism. They discussed how RP Digital dealt with the COVID crisis.
Here is a summary of their interview. However you can watch the video through the link available at the bottom of the article.
Le secteur du tourisme
This sector is always experiencing international turbulence. This forces companies to adapt regularly. September 11 is a good example. For several years, it prevented the travel of many travelers because they were afraid. Natural disasters are also part of the game, notably the eruption of the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull in 2010. The smoke disrupted air traffic, cancelling more than 100,000 flights.
COVID is also one of these crises, but on a different level, as it has already been going on for a year and has an international scope.
The impact of the crisis
For RP Digital, the announcement of the first lockdown in March 2020 was a harbinger of loss. They lost clients, time and had extra work.
The first consequence is the loss of customers. Two of them decided to break the contract, including a client with whom he had been working for three years.
There was a catuegory of customers who stayed and wanted to focus on commnication. They did not want to be forgotten by travelers during this period of non-travel. So to do so, RP Digital had to be creative in order to allow their client to remain visible. That’s why they organized “Apéro Zoom” with the client’s fans. The consequence was that the basic tasks became time consuming due to the excess of creative research.
And finally, other clients kept their relationship with RP Digital but wouldn’t communicate until the situation moved forward. This is a complication because they have to put journalists and social media fans on hold who want information.
Waves of optimism
After the first containment in France, summer arrived. With this season, the professionals had hope for a possible recovery and for a post COVID tourism. They hoped to have a more sustainable and different tourism. This was the new axis of communication on which they communicated. But in the fall, came a second lockdown that quarantined the hope of a normal recovery. It was a second round of customers stopping or suspending their contracts.
But in January 2021 hope is reborn. This wave of optimism is based on the fact of the new year and the arrival of vaccines. Then comes back on the table this Post COVID tourism but once again stifled by a third containment. This is the daily life of professionals in this sector who know ups and downs depending on the news. They adapt.
Post-COVID tourism will come one day, but in the meantime we have to find something else. We have to bounce back. Having no more short or medium term visibility, RP Digital started to prospect in the ecological environment sector. This is how they concluded a contract with an ecological detergent company. They refocused on their core target but they also extended their horizon to new sectors.
This situation has also allowed them to refocus on themselves and to reflect on their values. They seek to be consistent in what they do.
The rebound also passes by the use of new technology. Like Startup SAFARI which was held in a virtual 3D world, RP Digital had to discover and use the Zoom platform in a professional way. They also innovated. They proposed podcasts on travel to their customers. They also invested in the new social network Clubhouse to be up to date.
And finally, the rebound also involves collaboration and the creation of new offers. This is what Mathilde has undertaken with a colleague in communications. They combined their specialties: tourism for Mathilde and sports for her colleague. They have created an offer on sports tourism for local communities to enable them to promote their territory for the Olympic Games 2024.
Public aid and support
Like many companies, RP Digital called upon the partial activity device. Being an agency with two employees, Mathilde’s colleague has been on partial activity for a year now, alternating full time and half time work. This allows to maintain the job.
RP Digital then called on PGE (State Guaranteed Loan) to be able to absorb the financial problems. However, the situation remains complicated because these are still loans that must be repaid. Moreover, the agency is considered by the state as a small company that has not lost enough to be helped and yet they have lost too much to be in good financial health.
Forecasts for the summer of 2021
French tourism could be back on track as the French will travel in their own country. But tourism abroad seems more complicated to predict because not everyone is vaccinated yet and some countries like the United States remain closed to the world.
In the meantime, the agency is postponing its communication plans and is preparing to resume activity as soon as the situation is resolved.
Some tips for young professionals
In communication, it is always necessary to be on the lookout for novelties, innovations and latest technological news. This is what the agency has had to do with zoom and Clubhouse. It is also necessary to participate in events and trade shows to build a network and to train. With the issue of containment, Mathilde discovered webinars and online events such as Startup SAFARI.
For tourism, young professionals need to be interested in the tourism of tomorrow and sustainable tourism. There are a lot of events on the subject that need to be followed.
It is also necessary to see broadly during its monitoring and not to remain only in its field. This is why Mathilde looks at the social network accounts of companies in other completely different sectors. She then finds good practices that she can reproduce in her field.
Here is the link to the video.