barker and cristol marketing

This article is part of our series “COVID-19: 1 Year Later,” exploring the ways COVID-19 has affected and changed daily life over the last year. For two weeks, we surveyed our readers on how COVID-19 has affected them. Read our survey results here. Today, we are sharing the story of how one local business has weathered the pandemic storm.

We all know that restaurants, retail, tourism, and entertainment venues were severely affected by the current COVID-19 pandemic during the last year, but there are other types of small businesses that have had to deal with the changing world of work. As many who responded to the Source’s survey about coronavirus, Barker & Christol, LLC, a Murfreesboro marketing agency, saw their business change, but not the same way as those who work directly with the public, as B+C creates advertising and public relations for local businesses and organizations.

“Beyond the implementation of more safe-distancing policies,” said Brooks Christol, Partner and CEO of the agency, “we didn’t have to change much for our business. We naturally evolved to help guide our clients in communicating their change-of-business-procedures to their audiences, and from time-to-time we provided some third-party guidance on what changes needed to be made.”

Luckily, their business model allowed for the flexibility necessary to adapt and their revenue only dipped for a short time. They had already started the process of overhauling their internal infrastructure. They had been slowly working on new technology that would allow them to remote work more easily before the pandemic hit, however, when the mandate to leave the office came down, they had to kick that process into high gear.

“[Problem was] our IT guy had to quarantine because he was on a plane with one of the first cases of COVID-19 in Nashville,” explained Christol. “As a result, while everyone else on the team worked from home, I spent 16 to 18 hours a day for an entire week in the server closet on the phone, Zoom, [and] Facetime [with] people more technically adept than myself. We stayed remote for about 10 weeks, with no noticeable impact on business function or revenue continuity.”

MORE: Rutherford County Coronavirus Case Count 

Instead, they found themselves having to be flexible, as the pandemic impacted each client differently. And all of their clients had to rethink how they interacted with their customers. Brick and mortar retail clients were forced to adopt eCommerce tools they’d previously been reluctant to take on. Some already had the technology and the pandemic just forced them into total reliance on these tools instead of just offering them as an added benefit.

“A couple tourism-based clients had to make the biggest adjustments,” added Christol. “Our job was to communicate confidence in the new systems to their audiences. But our biggest challenge was to make sure that our clients’ voices were heard among the thousands of other voices saying almost the same thing, and against the tremendous, almost overwhelming noise created by the ‘news’ turmoil.”

The pandemic forced the agency’s staff to be nimble in their thinking while planning future client strategies with this new element to consider, and to be aware of what impact the “new normal” will have on the audience of any given campaign.

Known for the slightly twisted sense of humor found on their Facebook page, and general staff craziness, creative thinking has not been a problem. Their focus on comradery has also allowed them to keep their team approach, even separated during 10 weeks of remote work. Everyone stayed healthy, too.

“We never panicked, but we were very cautious,” said Christol.


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