The Power of Pro Bono
Over the past year and a half we've all adapted our businesses to the unforeseen circumstances we’ve faced I’m sure we’ve all been surprised by where that journey has taken us.
Livestreaming a College 6th Form 'Open' Morning in a pandemic!
For myself that journey started just over a year ago with daily live streams for my wife’s business from our kitchen. These evolved into ‘simulcasts’ (a word I’d never come across till that point!) as I learnt to embrace the new streaming technology through apps such as OBS, that were evolving equally as fast in order to keep up with the pace of a virtually connected pandemic word where global digital links were spreading almost as fast as the virus itself, almost as if this digital ‘virus’ was in a parallel race with it’s biological competitor.
My geographical working arena then extended about 400 metres beyond our kitchen to our daughter’s college around the corner. For someone used to travelling all over the world with work commissions, those 400 metres bizarrely seemed like a vast chasm at the time. At a time when ‘Stay At Home to Save Lives’ and ‘One Walk A Day’ was the repeated dogma, that short journey felt strangely equivalent to crossing the treacherous Drakes Passage en route to Antarctica a few years back.
I had reached out to the College in case they needed any help with filming as I could see the demands for online content delivery that they were suddenly facing. Prior to Lockdown I had driven the contents of my London studio home, and so had cameras, lights and microphones sitting at my disposal at home gathering dust. I’d far rather be busy and helping in some way rather than sitting at home twiddling my thumbs so I was more than happy to offer my services pro bono.
I ended up filming & editing their online Speech Day 2020 videos with an intro that had more than a nod to Stanley Kubrick, and speeches from the various Heads, governors, pupils along with virtual orchestras, choirs and other contributors. Some people in my industry are very quick to criticise anyone for offering to work for free, but it’s important to understand that life isn’t black and white, that circumstances often arise that require us all to offer our skills to others without any expectation, and that often those are the experiences that teach us the most. It is rare that nothing ever comes from those situations, and in the very least the satisfaction of being able to help in some way is it’s own valuable reward.
At a time when I knew of plenty in my profession who were stacking shelves, driving taxis, or simply not working at all, I was extremely fortunate that this piece of pro bono work did lead to an exciting variety of commissions and a great working relationship with a new client, a client that itself was adapting the new and strange working environment it found itself in, which suddenly necessitated producing a large amount of visual digital content to be created in a very short timescale.
Out of nowhere I was filming tour videos of various parts of the school, organising live streams of virtual open mornings and sixth form evenings, creating a documentary film of the new Head Mistress who arrived at the College in September but whom none of the parents had the chance to meet, along with other commissions such as helping to livestream the College Festival of Literature to around 200 schools all over the UK.
In the past few months 2 members of the original 3 strong school marketing team that I worked with have now dispersed to 2 other schools, and both have been in touch with potential work in the pipeline. This is a perfect illustration of the value of reaching out to new potential clients, even if they don’t seem like a potential client at the time. Both Covid and Brexit have changed the working arena for many of our businesses. A large part of my ‘regular’ work came from international travel. Moving forward, unfortunately this new work arena has shrunk in geographical terms both in the short term (Covid) but also longer term (Brexit and European work).
But that doesn’t mean that our potential client base has also shrunk. It just means for many of us that we need to look closer to home, and to broaden our horizons in terms of who we perceive as new clients. Yes we may well miss those exciting commissions to far flung place (the furthest work has taken me this year is Manchester to film a video series!) but we also have a newfound appreciation for a simpler life without unnecessarily stressful commutes. More importantly it is the scope and reach of our work that more than makes up for those long hours in transit. Think about those open day school videos for example, instead of being geographically limited to people within a car journey’s distance of a school, they are now viewed by potential student families on the other side of the world. Similarly consider how the festival of literature has gone from an author would speaking in a small lecture theatre to 80 people, to an audience in the thousands as classes logged in from schools from the Channel Islands to Scotland.
The potential for growth in this new arena is truly exciting.
And remember – reaching out is sometimes all is takes to be adapt and be part of the change.