How to pivot in-person activations to virtual

PR agency coded{pr} had to adjust its strategy when the festival season fell apart because of the COVID-19 crisis. Here’s how they were able to respond and find virtual outlets.


Festival season won’t be happening this year due to the coronavirus and social distancing efforts.

That’s good for public health but a real blow for brands and PR agencies that rely on these events for activations for their campaigns. So, how can these messages move online and still deliver for the brands and communicators that are counting on them?

Jase Lucas, coded{pr}’s showroom manager, shares this case study:


“Festival Season is a huge moment for many agencies and brands. Each spring, we ramp up our showroom with a special initiative in the weeks leading up to Coachella through Stagecoach.

“In addition to our existing clients, we engage with brands solely for this activation on a project basis. At the beginning of this year, we were already working with various brands to ship us an increased number of products for our gifting and styling suite, while also planning for our own ramp up with marketing materials, décor and added team members.

“When Coronavirus started to impact businesses around the world and Coachella was officially postponed, it felt as if overnight, businesses were implementing work from home systems in support of social distancing recommendations and as of March 19th, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti mandated a ‘Safer at Home’ emergency order.

“Here we were, with a showroom filled with amazing brands and products, a schedule of confirmed fabulous influencer and stylist appointments and payments received… We asked ourselves: ‘Under these unusual circumstances and amidst this risk and uncertainty, what can we do to create an opportunity for our clients, strengthen our network and respect and care for our team?’”


“We had to move quickly and decide what our most appropriate action was to be. We discussed what was appropriate in the context of the wider pandemic, committing to always be sensitive and remain nimble with every aspect of our communications.

“Because the top priority was (and remains) keeping our company and team members safe and contributing to the overall health of our community and society, social distancing was never in question. We initially enacted our ‘a team member a day keeps the doctor away’ policy and assigned one person daily to be responsible for being in-office to handle digital interface during confirmed appointments.

“Fortunately, we initiated a company-wide showroom training session earlier this year so everyone was equipped to handle showroom appointments. We certainly didn’t know at the time what it would prepare us for! To promote health and safety, the team member in the office washes his/her hands often and wipes down surfaces they have touched throughout the day. Furthermore, with the ‘Safer at Home’ order being announced, we quickly jumped into action to plan creating video content and footage of our showroom that would be available for virtual tours.

“Equally important was our collective health and wellbeing. There have been frequent team check-ins, buzzing slack channels and jokes shared to stay connected as an agency family. At the end of each week, showroom gifts will be packaged up, placed outside for UPS to ship directly to the content creators, stylists, editors and talent that chose them. Let the unboxing posts commence…”

Results and measurement

“Since kicking off the initiative, we’ve seen an influx in showroom appointments (perhaps in part because other showrooms have temporarily closed their doors). With the ability to split showroom costs among brands and the agency, expenses have remained minimal, yet the social traction has already increased over last year.

“Influencers and talent are still working on their content (whether producing it themselves or limiting it to the confines of their homes), so now is a great time to cut through the noise and build awareness for our brands in an alternative, meaningful way. While this is fairly new and things are changing so quickly, we are—as always—monitoring our success through social story shares, tagged posts, static posts and of course, engagement and qualitative feedback.

“Our clients and influencer and stylist network have been so supportive. Traversing this path with them has given us the encouraging feeling that we are all in this together. We’ve already received so much feedback that forging ahead in this way offers a sense of normality and community during these uncertain times.”

Lessons learned

“No one could have expected a silent monster virus to have such a tremendous impact (and we still don’t know the half of it), but looking back on our ability to pivot so quickly speaks to our dynamic team and training processes. We had a quick 24 hours to determine how to make or break this activation. The team came together to problem-solve with both each other and our client partners in mind.

“Because each team member was already trained on everything from our brands’ DNAs to our showroom protocol and processes, we have been able to implement the virtual showroom seamlessly and generate the results our clients have come to expect.

“Optimism, preparation and putting ourselves in our clients’ shoes—things we always embraced even before embracing was discouraged – have proven a recipe for success.”


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