Navigating Uncharted Waters – Personally and Professionally

By Ellie Parry, Forte Marketing & Public Relations

In some respects, it feels like we were only recently in Orlando, Fla., for the Golf Industry Show, enjoying the TOCA breakfast together, working hard on the show floor, and taking part in the Syngenta “Health in Action” 5K. In other ways, it feels like a lifetime ago. It is difficult to comprehend how much life has changed since then. As a result of COVID-19, we’re all navigating uncharted waters – personally and professionally. In the United Kingdom, our schools closed on March 20 and on March 23 the Prime Minister asked the British public to “Stay home, protect the National Health Service and save lives,” permitting us to leave our homes only for groceries and medication, exercise once a day, or go to work to complete essential tasks if we were unable to work at home.

Sitting at my desk over the past few weeks, my green industry colleagues around the world have been very much in my thoughts. With golf courses, sports clubs, educational establishments, nurseries and garden centers closed and many staff furloughed, our industry has felt very different.

Helen Willson and I have been working with the directors of B2B and B2C clients, managing staff and customer communications. With no blueprint for communications in a global pandemic and the situation changing rapidly, we’ve needed to be agile and human centric.

In a crisis, people need accurate information from reliable sources. I’m usually fairly active on my Twitter feed but felt it important to clear the airwaves at crucial times to allow our industry leaders and governing bodies of sport to issue guidance and provide updates.

The last couple of months have reaffirmed the value of the green industry and green spaces in our communities. The start of spring and the beauty of new growth have given hope and encouragement that brighter days will come. While much of the country was closed, the grass kept growing. People have valued the time spent exercising outdoors. Issues with social distancing in parks and urban greenspaces triggered a debate about the value of, and need for investment in, our nation’s green infrastructure. Forty-five percent of the population said that they were coping with the “lockdown” by gardening. Lawns were renovated and families enjoyed first attempts at growing vegetables in their gardens. Golfers have missed walking the fairways with their friends and seeing local wildlife. Only solitary dog walkers and joggers are making use of local sports fields. The buzz of sports teams, spectators and park runners are no longer audible each weekend.

As I write, many golf courses in the United States and Europe are open. We’ve had a spell of particularly good weather here and golf courses are looking incredible. Members are eager to tee off once more and clubs are looking forward to welcoming them back. Professional sports are likely to resume behind closed doors later this summer, but fans will have to be content with media coverage for the foreseeable future.

The impact of the pandemic on our industry cannot yet be quantified, and we know there are tough times ahead. What we do know is that our industry makes a huge difference to communities, to the landscape, to homes, to health and well-being, to the air we breathe, and to sports and recreation, and we’re glad to be part of it. We send our best wishes to you all, and to your families and colleagues. Stay safe, stay well, and stay in touch!