For this month’s Member Spotlight, we hear from Julian Agostini, MD of Mash Media, who saw their events industry business change overnight as the pandemic took hold last year.
“There is something thrilling and appealing, to humanity, about the idea of survival, especially against the odds. Think about how many TV programmes, films, books, plays and songs have been written about this topic. There is a fascination about it, almost a desire to see how we’d fare when placed in seemingly hopeless situations.
However, I doubt many businesses would have chosen to experience what we have all been through in the last eighteen months. Many enterprises, including my own, were thrust into a position where we had no choice but to play the game for real. No income, no prospects, no ability to plan, no definite end in sight, can you get through? That was the equation we all faced and some, unfortunately, were not able to navigate the waters through no fault of their own, others prospered via all types of ingenuity.
Here’s our story, I hope it resonates in some way with other members.
Mash Media is located just behind the Apple Market, we have been in existence for 26 years but moved to Kingston from Wimbledon, 6 years ago and have felt very much at home here. Our business is all about the events industry. We are the information providers to businesses that run events be those exhibitions and trade fairs, conferences, congresses, awards, festivals, meetings etc. We also run our own events for these communities. As you will know, events of every description, were banned in March 2020 along with many other activities; we became outlaws overnight! Our business literally fell off a cliff but, worse than that, no-one could tell us when it might ever return.
The outlook was extremely bleak, not just for us, but for our entire community. The events industry is somewhat latent to the public eye but there are tens of thousands of enterprises that operate to stage everything from the Glastonbury to the Hampton Court Flower Show to a political party conference. It’s a giant marketplace and accommodates all different sizes of companies.
When the pandemic hit, there was panic and despite the furlough scheme and CBILS providing some level of support, many suppliers and organisers were going to the wall. Perhaps what saved us was that we didn’t really have time to worry about what we were going to do differently. We had a duty of care to support our readers and clients, all of whom were bleeding from the eyes. So, we became the agony aunt, the mouthpiece for our industry to government and the wider media. We seemed to be creating an initiative a week in those times just keep everybody upbeat, here just a few:
We gave away free advertising to keep businesses engaged
Created various online communities
Set up small meetings everywhere, which just about complied within the law
Bombarded national media to recognise our plight
Brought nearly all the associations together that serve our industry (over 50) to create a body called One Industry One Voice to help our communication with government
Researched and provided information on how to create digital events just to keep alive; this led to us being asked to produce a new product called Digital event News, which is probably the only income that we generated and saved our souls.
In reality, therefore, it was nothing ingenious from me, no creative ‘pivot’. We just followed our mission to serve our community as best we could, and the ideas evolved from that. Internally, we learned who could work from home and who needed the office and tried to accommodate both. We have changed our culture forever, probably as the work/life balance has adjusted from everyone. We have made several significant changes and now shut at 1pm on Fridays for example.
We’re finally coming out the other side now and the landscape looks very different. Some in our industry are saying that we needed a shake up and it’s survival of the fittest. Maybe there’s some truth in that but survival of the luckiest might be more accurate.”
We love hearing from our members how things are going. If you would like to write a Member Spotlight, contact Joelle.