Look After has secured a network of 250 volunteers and seven charity partners, keeping furloughed and out of work comms professionals busy during the coronavirus pandemic.
The initiative was set up by former Frank account executive Nic Young, with brand strategy consultant Felix Henderson coming on board as a partner.
The initiative's charity partners are Furloughed Foodies, Standing Together Against Domestic Violence, End Youth Homelessness, Under One Sky, Covid Crisis Rescue, Bishop Simeon’s Trust and Action Against Hunger.
About 50 volunteers maintain these accounts, and the initiative has recently secured a partnership with CPRI and Roxhill, which also matches comms volunteers with not-for-profit organisations.
Combined, the two initiatives account for about 350 professionals serving 50 clients.
Look After has provided press-office support, social-media management, media relations, comms strategy, website design and secured coverage for clients in Mail Online, Metro, i, Daily Mail, Footprint, Stylist and other media outlets.
'A light in a dark time'
For domestic violence charity Standing Together, the help could not have come at a more critical time, with calls to the Refuge national domestic abuse helpline rising by 49 per cent, and killings doubling in the weeks after lockdown.
Look After set up a comms team for Standing Together, which has helped to develop its website – a vital communications tool for victims – and a press-office function to ensure attention on domestic abuse continues to be magnified.
The team has helped the charity's new chief executive, Gudrun Burnet, respond to a recent amendment to the Domestic Abuse Bill, which is before Parliament.
“Smaller charities do just as vital work, but we simply don’t have the financial resources,” Burnet said. “We know how much further our reach could go if we had a communications person on staff, and with this COVID-19 crisis coming out of the blue, I’ll be forever grateful for such good people out there helping me. This has been a real light in an otherwise very dark time.”
The team is led by Gregor Hastings, a furloughed communications manager for Hilton EMEA in London. He manages an account team of seven volunteers.
“I wanted to use the furlough period positively and do something purposeful,” Hastings said. “Joining the Look After team has allowed me to keep using my skills while making a contribution to some really important work.”
Nic Young and Felix Henderson are partners at Look After
Young told PRWeek that now Look After has established a proof of concept, he will be looking for paid work for those in the network without an income.
He said he has learned a few lessons from his experience of setting up and running Look After.
“By bringing together people from FMCG, travel, corporate and every other discipline of PR, we’ve found that the perspectives and thoughts that we are bringing to clients are unparalleled,” he said. “It seems that in some cases, without experience in the particular area, people are more likely to come at the issue/brief from a fresh, new angle which we and our clients have been amazed by.”
He said that many charities – especially smaller, ‘second-tier’ charities – have never had the budget for comms teams.
“We’re finding that our work is showing comms’ worth and believe [these clients] will be more likely to hire a comms team in the future,” he added.
Young said he was also taken aback by the kindness of volunteers and others who have donated their time and expertise to help the initiative get off the ground.
“Despite not being paid, the dedication and quality of the volunteer work is extraordinary. They are not being asked to work on something by an employer that does not marry with their personal ethics, and it is showing in the results,” he said.
Visit the Look After website to find out more.