Job spotlight: Melissa Barber – spreading the word

The head of marketing and communications at Beard explains how the pandemic has changed her job

What does a typical day in your job entail?

I was just two months into my new role as head of marketing and communications with Beard when covid-19 struck. Every day since has been dominated by dealing with that: keeping the show on the road as far as possible on site, and the transition to remote working for our office-based teams.

We set ourselves the task of keeping colleagues fully informed about government announcements, how Beard was responding to the situation, and what that might mean for them.

The key has been collaboration – with colleagues at every level of the business. The construction industry tends to be focused on bricks and mortar but communications and marketing are all about people.

Has your role become more challenging during the covid crisis. If so, how?

At times of crisis, most people long for some certainty – but that’s difficult to give when the world has been turned on its head. We need to keep people motivated and engaged, while also managing expectations. 

We have needed to communicate some tough messages, and it was hard not to be able to do that face to face.

As offices begin to open up again, many businesses will have to deal with the risk of a more fragmented workforce. We are used to having to communicate across our four regional offices, and of course multiple sites, but this presents a new set of challenges.

The trick is to stay true to your values. In Beard’s case, that means helping people feel they are part of something bigger.

Is construction trickier to ‘market’ than other industries?

As we emerge from the pandemic, the priority will be winning work. Beard is fortunate that a lot of our work is repeat business. We’re over 100 years old, so reputation and relationships play a key part.

Some clients may hold back on placing orders due to the wider economic uncertainty. The response to that needs to be a collective and collaborative one, with the industry as a whole working with government and other partners.

Increasingly we are faced with marketing ourselves in a digital world. We need to be able to set ourselves apart when we can’t be in the same room. That will be a challenge but I think an exciting one: a learning curve for me, for the firm and for the industry as a whole.

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