Laura Rothwell, founder and managing director of marketing and PR agency Crystallised.
Jane Imrie

Bdaily Festive Focus 2020: Tis the season to check your privilege, be nice and wear a mask for Crystallised managing director Laura Rothwell

For the seventh day of Bdaily’s Festive Focus, we chatted with Laura Rothwell, founder and managing director of marketing and PR agency Crystallised, about how staying true to her values helped her navigate the uncertainty of 2020 and her ambitions for festive fiesta!

How has 2020 changed the way that you live, work, and think?

“I’ve embraced patience like never before! I’m notoriously quite impatient, if I have an idea, I want to share it immediately, if I want something doing, I want it done yesterday, I listen to audio books on x2 speed!

“So, this year has really forced my brain to slow down, accept the things I can’t change and realise that sometimes things just take as long as they take. I, like every single person, started pottering about in the garden and you definitely can’t rush plants!

“Patience, accepting I can’t control everything and valuing my time and headspace so much more than ever before.”

What has been your single biggest challenge and how have you overcome it?

“The single biggest challenge this year has undoubtedly been trying to keep the business afloat.

“In the three or four weeks following lockdown 1 (March through April), we saw much of our work get postponed (an admirable optimism early-doors) before a bombardment of cancellations; wiping out about 60 per cent of our confirmed work for the year.

“My initial reaction was panic, I think I did about 15 different reforecasts and budgets, often at 2am, often listening to true crime podcasts. At some point, I realised it was an absolute waste of time.

“I simplified everything down to one aim for the year, “no one loses their job.” That was it. With such a clear purpose, everything became sharper and more stable. When everything around us is so chaotic, having that anchor was actually incredibly freeing. It’s guided every decision I’ve made this year.”

What has been the biggest unexpected positive to come out of this year?

“It’s a cliché but having some time to pause and reflect. Although I’ve been working throughout, I’ve had more headspace. More time to work ‘on’ the business, as they say. Which has meant I’ve been able to revisit why we do what we do as well as how we do it.

“I’ve written new training programmes for our team and taken time to do more learning myself – especially in terms of confidence building and leadership.

“Our client portfolio has diversified quite significantly too, so whereas we were really known for our work in arts and culture, we’re now working across arts, culture, engineering, science, tech, health and retail.

“I’d made a decision to diversify in 2019 and so we were already seeing changes, but I think the pandemic has accelerated the process pretty dramatically.”

What does your ideal Christmas look like?

“My absolute ideal Christmas, which feels like a fantasy now, is spending the whole festive season in Mexico City.

“It’s a place my partner and I have visited a few times and I’m in love. I’d be able to settle back into speaking Spanish, we’d eat tacos on Christmas Eve and warm our bones in the sun on Christmas Day.

“My ideal Christmas in our current circumstance is to be healthy at home with a restaurant delivery box from El Pastor!”

How do you think people and businesses can support each other during 2020’s festive season?

“In business, I’m big on collaboration over competition. A rising tide lifts all boats as the saying goes.

“So, things like shouting out other businesses, partnering on projects, recommending others for work, not undercutting, or bowing out where you aren’t the right fit are all things, I think are the right way to do business.

“Individually, I’m trying to spend more wisely, with local or indie businesses of course. But it’s a privilege to do that, you know? It’s not viable for everyone to spend more on local, indie, ethical, organic etc and I don’t think we should pass judgement there.

“Everyone has had a tough year. Just be nice, assume the best of intentions and wear a mask.”

What does 2021 look like for you and your business?

“I move wildly from being quite excited about 2021 and then in the next moment completely anxious and uncertain.

“We’re going to stick to our values and purpose, we’re going to do the best work we can, we’re going to continue value people as people and not as consumers to be marketed to, we’re going to learn, pay attention, improve, adapt and double down on the ethics and principles I believe are important.

“This is the only way I know; this has led Crystallised for eight years, and it will lead us for another eight years.

“For me, I need to prioritise health and wellness for myself. I’ve got a chronic pain condition, I had coronavirus this year, I’ve worked non-stop since March – it’s not sustainable and it’s actually harmful. I’ve got to be better!”

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