How the UK’s creative small businesses have coped with COVID-19 #StartUps - The Entrepreneurial Way with A.I.


Thursday, July 23, 2020

How the UK’s creative small businesses have coped with COVID-19 #StartUps

Jist Studios

Jist Studios Headshot

Manchester-based Jist Studios produces videos for brands, agencies, businesses and broadcasters, and faced two key challenges as a result of the COVID-19 lockdown.

One of these was financial – projects were paused, and demand fell. Indeed, the Oxford Economics report discussed above predicted a £4.2bn drop in advertising spend due to COVID-19.

The other was creative – big shoots teeming with people were out, and the company had to start producing compelling content while keeping people safe and adhering to the coronavirus guidelines.

Jon Stroud, Creative Director at Jist Studios (pictured above), shares how they tackled these twin obstacles, starting with how the company managed to keep money and projects coming in during lockdown:

‘‘Financially, COVID has been an interesting ride. And as the founder and only director of the firm, it has been stressful at times.

‘‘We had to put two big projects on pause as lockdown hit, including a big advert which is still on ice. Once it was clear that some form of lockdown would be in place for the longer-term, thoughts moved to how we could either a) produce new content for the brands we already work with during lockdown, or b) adapt previous plans to work in this new world.

‘‘Thankfully, we managed both. We’ve been lucky enough to take on new projects with existing customers, helping them with their content needs whilst many brands went quiet. It’s been really interesting working out what we can and can’t do. It’s forced some very creative thinking.

‘‘The Government support schemes have also been a great help, including a small business rates grant from Manchester City Council. Owing to our continued workload, furlough wasn’t going to be an option for the whole team, but we have furloughed one junior member of staff.”

Jon also stresses that, despite the challenging circumstances, he wanted to invest for the future growth of his company. To this end, he took the unusual step of hiring and onboarding a new staff member during lockdown.

Just as importantly, he notes that the pandemic meant finding a whole new way of working:

Jist Studios - Covid 19 video shoot

‘‘As a team of video content creators, we work in lots of different environments – everything from the traditional studio set-up to filming a documentary on the road, to animation. What all of these have in common is people coming together – camera operators, producers, lighting, actors, clients… the list goes on.

‘‘Social distancing means getting a full cast and crew together hasn’t been possible, and that’s where I’ve seen a lot of lost potential. ‘Let’s just wait until lockdown’s over and pick it up then.’”

“But failure to think creatively means organisations lose out on huge opportunities to continue storytelling and connect with people, at a time when human interaction is more important than ever.

‘‘At Jist, we’ve been developing and adopting several techniques to deliver content with personality. We recently delivered a social media campaign for a household FMCG brand that involved sending out GoPros to contributors. We provided tutorials on how to use them, along with a very clear brief, and sent them on their way.

“For another project in the depths of lockdown, we tasked people with re-enacting a video call with colleagues in their kitchens while enjoying breakfast, all recorded over a video conference. And we’ve just spent three days based out of a camper van filming on location, wearing full PPE on one the hottest days of the year to deliver a re-imagined version of a project we pitched pre-lockdown.

“The result across all of these projects is candid, relatable, and shareable content that doesn’t fall into the trap of COVID-fatigue.

“The biggest challenge has been casting and locations. Where a lo-fi approach with phones or GoPros won’t suffice, we’ve had to think about how we work in-line with industry best practice, which has been constantly developing.

“Skeleton crews, live streaming content to clients from location (from the back of a camper van!), as well as casting contributors who are willing to allow us to film in their own home as a location.

Production has always been a multi-skilled jigsaw puzzle – now more so than ever before.”

Despite these challenges, Jon remains defiant and passionate about his work, describing COVID-19 as the embodiment of “whatever doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.”

Above all, he points out that “‘Stories don’t stop because of COVID-19. Storytelling doesn’t need to stop because of COVID-19. Therefore, our business needn’t stop because of COVID-19.”

via by Alec Hawley, Khareem Sudlow