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A year of COVID challenges & positive changes: reflecting on 2020

As we begin 2021, and prepare for all that it’s sure to hold, now is an apt time to look back and reflect on the year behind us. A year of changes, and overcoming COVID-related challenges, was certainly one way to describe 2020. It is one that none of us will forget in a hurry. However, for WRENmedia, the year was filled with new, as well as established, clients and we enjoyed working on a number of exciting initiatives – mostly from home, as COVID-19 measures spread across the UK and the rest of the world. We also welcomed our new colleague Alice, and said a temporary goodbye to Sophie, who has gone on maternity leave to enjoy time with her baby boy.

A lasting legacy

With CTA coming to a close at the end of 2020, WRENmedia was honoured to be asked to produce a publication commemorating the Centre’s efforts to document, share and scale up agricultural innovation throughout the years. CTA: A Legacy of Agricultural Transformation was published in February 2020, condensing 35 years of this organisation’s crucial work into 48 meaningful pages. Albeit a challenging task, we were proud to have played such a crucial role in celebrating CTA’s impact and legacy in this sector. The dynamism and determination of young Kenyan agripreneurs supported by CTA was captured in a further publication produced over the summer of 2020. The WRENmedia team partnered with Kenyan journalist Bob Koigi and writer and photographer Georgina Smith to co-write, edit and design Growing Rural Youth Agribusiness in Kenya. The 84-page book highlighted success stories of groups in the cereal, dairy and fish value chains, as well the Vijabiz project’s best practices.

Raising the profile of events

Communication support provided over 2.5 months before and after the virtual SUN Pitch Competition held in July 2020 resulted in over 50 articles published, the creation of a 40-page ‘Pitchbook’ and a 274% increase in tweet impressions. WRENmedia’s extensive portfolio of outputs also included striking infographics and multi-coloured banners to help increase traction with the online event through Mailchimp newsletters, and to generate engagement on social media. A series of pre- and post-event press releases, content pieces with event sponsors and articles on the competition finalists in collaboration with our African correspondents were also developed and distributed to media contacts in Africa and Asia. It is always a pleasure to collaborate with our network of correspondents, and WRENmedia is looking forward to continuing to work with them in 2021 as we support SBN in producing a series of case studies to promote SBN activities in Africa and Asia, as well as provide stories from the field for other clients, including IDRC's CultiAF initiative.

Enhancing engagement

Social media support has been a key aspect of WRENmedia’s activities in 2020 including for the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition as they marked the release of their Foresight 2.0 Report, Future Food Systems: For People, Our Planet, and Prosperity. We provided eye-catching infographics and banners to engage with the report’s audience, and live tweeting during the report launch event. Through these efforts, we were able to achieve a 733% increase in Tweet impressions, attract new followers and encourage 8,600 ‘link clicks’, which represent the number of individuals viewing the report, over this period. Regular social media support for APRA is also provided as part of our comprehensive communication support for the programme, which also includes editing and design services, including for a series of country reports on the impacts of COVID-19 on agriculture, and strategic communication advice for country team engagement activities.

Cross continental communications training

Assisting teams in highlighting the impacts of COVID-19 on IDRC’s CultiAF project activities during a 2-hour webinar provided the WRENmedia team with an exciting opportunity to see how we could deliver effective, online communications support during the restrictions imposed by COVID. Having always held communication training sessions in-person, adopting a remote approach was a new experience. In preparation for the webinar, WRENmedia worked with presenters from nine research teams to refine their key messages to be delivered in a 5-minute presentation.

To see the significant improvement in the teams’ presentations was a real pleasure and, as a result, the webinar ran like clockwork; clear and impactful presentations were delivered and more time than usual was available for follow-up questions. As WRENmedia look to the future and the need to reduce our carbon footprint, delivering remote training and providing virtual support is an approach that we will be encouraging other clients to pursue.

Fostering new relationships and looking to the future

As well as working with existing clients such as ACED, APRA, CABI, CTA, ICARDA and KIT, we have been pleased to work with a number of new clients in 2020, including ATNI, FAO, GSSI and WUR, to re-work existing documents into new, more accessible formats, as well as providing simple and more comprehensive editing for clarity and brevity.

This time last year, no one could have predicted all that 2020 would bring. But, having come through it and with the promise of an exciting year ahead, we are eagerly anticipating the coming months. There is much to focus on with the next UN Climate Summit (COP 26) to be held in Glasgow in the UK in November, as well as the UN Food Summit at a date still to be decided. Let us all hope that 2021 is a year of positive change; WRENmedia is certainly looking forward to playing its part in communicating what needs to be achieved for us all to have a more sustainable future.

Susanna Cartmell

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