Every Thursday during the pandemic, we’re checking in on members of the jewelry trade in an attempt to glean shareable tips and tricks for doing business—and living as well as possible—during the COVID-19 crisis.
Today we hear from jewelry industry veteran Rebecca Moskal, founder of Los Angeles–based public relations professional firm Communiqué, who contracted COVID-19 in the U.K. (and has thankfully recovered) and is currently living in the Scotland highlands with her husband.
JCK: Where are you based exactly in Scotland?
Rebecca Moskal: We are in a tiny hamlet called Keltneyburn, located in the Scottish highlands, about two and a half hours north of Edinburgh. We decided to leave Los Angeles in early March, after a man at our local grocery store offered me $100 for the last tube of Lysol wipes I had just put in my cart.
We have a small bothy in a very rural area and felt it would be a good idea to ride out the pandemic there. Never did we expect to still be here, seven months later, now under new restrictions as a second wave of the virus takes hold of the U.K.
After 23 weeks in our rural bubble, we ventured to London on business for a few days back in August. Unfortunately, my husband, Stewart, and I contracted COVID-19 from an asymptomatic carrier at a restaurant (the U.K.’s Track and Trace is no joke!) and spent eight very scary days very sick in bed. It took more than three weeks until we felt quasi-normal again. The virus is real, the pandemic is nowhere near over, and please wear a mask.
What’s the mood and environment like there?
Like much of the planet at the moment, people here are concerned about the continuous rise in COVID-19 cases and what the future holds. Lockdown parameters were quite strict here in the first few months of the pandemic, and no one is looking forward to potentially reliving that in the months ahead. Under current Scottish law, we are not able to visit anyone or have guests in our home, share a car with anyone outside of our household, and restaurants and cafés are only open 6 a.m.–6 p.m. Alcohol is only allowed to be served outdoors and only until 10 p.m. We can meet people from one other household outdoors, but in limited groups of six.
The U.K. currently has a three-tier system, and stricter restrictions have been imposed on those areas with major outbreaks.
What is your home office like?
I’ve worked from home since 2009, when I founded Communiqué, so to be honest, my work environment has not changed that drastically. As we travel often, I’m used to finding a space wherever we are and making it my “office.” Given that we’re both now working from home, we have had to negotiate who makes calls from which room and when, getting creative in our tiny space!
How has the pandemic changed the way you do business?
So. Many. Zoom. Calls! Which I have to admit, I do not mind. I feel like they allow participants to connect on a deeper level than in an email or even on a phone call. Getting a glimpse into someone’s home office reinforces the we’re-all-in-this-together experience of the pandemic.
It’s also hard not to start a conversation or meeting without asking how someone is faring, which in normal times, we may just brush over due to time constraints.
Press presentations have become a bit more challenging, as the fine details of a piece are often lost on camera, and nothing can replace the experience of trying on a piece of jewelry. But we’ve come up with creative ways to ensure our clients are gaining the exposure they deserve.
Have there been any lessons that have come out of the pandemic for you?
This city girl can handle country living…and maybe secretly loves it. I have lived in Los Angeles for 16 years and was in New York City before that. I’m used to the convenience of city life, the access to world-class restaurants and cultural institutions, and the energy generated by a city filled with millions of people. But I have to confess that the peace and quiet, the cleanest air I’ve ever breathed, and access to unlimited hikes through majestic terrain have made me consider where I’d like to settle long term.
How do you think jewelry brands and companies should be approaching public relations right now, and how important do you think it is during COVID?
The pandemic has given us the opportunity to stop and assess, whether that’s on a personal or a professional, brand level. Companies hopefully used this time to better understand their clientele, discover how their needs and motivations may have evolved and how they are going to service this consumer within this new dynamic. Messaging needs to reflect these changes in attitude and can be conveyed through a company’s public relations strategy and efforts moving forward.
A brand’s public relations is of vital importance during these times. One misstep, inappropriate, or insensitive communication, and you can alienate and permanently lose consumers. It’s all about the messaging during these times. While jewelry may not be an essential purchase, there are always going to be birthdays and anniversaries to celebrate, milestones to mark, commitments to make. People will and do need jewelry. It’s important, and we can’t lose sight of that. We just have to convey the sentiment appropriately, thus reinforcing the importance of PR!
What have you been seeing or doing in the PR space that you feel is really working?
Being real. Remembering we are all human and are all working through a trying time no matter what our glossy social media feeds may show. Recognizing we are all citizens of this planet, trying to make our way through some rough proverbial waters. And supporting one another, in any way we can.
Specifically within our industry, seeing brands championing previously unknown designers, showcasing their talents on a larger platform. Watching charitable endeavors being established, like the Art Smith Memorial Scholarship Fund, backed by so many important designers and jewelry powerhouses.
While all of these initiatives have major effects on an industry level, they most definitely connect with jewelry-buying audiences on a consumer level. People innately want to do good. They want to be part of something. By the industry leading the charge, we have the opportunity to create jewelry loyalists like never before.
What’s it like being out of the U.S. during this very crazy moment in America?
A relief. Just kidding! It has been so hard being so far away from my family and loved ones. Between the pandemic and wildfires threatening and destroying so much of California, there have been many sleepless nights. That said, it’s been very interesting to watch the media coverage of the U.S. through an international lens. It’s so disheartening to see our country mocked and not garner the respect it has in the past, whether it’s coverage on Trump, the virus, or the election. As the token American in most of my social circles here, I am often left to explain exactly how we got “here.”
No matter what happens on Nov. 3, I’m looking forward to returning to the States soon thereafter and hugging my mom and sister for the first time in nearly a year.
How have you been relaxing or mentally escaping during the pandemic?
We’re fortunate to be living on a few hundred acres of wilderness here in the highlands. I’ve taken a daily five-mile hike, which has proven therapeutic, as well as inspirational. It’s my alone time and allows me to think, brainstorm, and breathe.
Back in March, I also started a Sunday night Zoom call with three of my best friends from grade school. At first it was a check-in to make sure we were all safe and healthy, but we’ve continued the calls, and the conversations have spanned so many topics. We live in various parts of the U.S. and pre-pandemic would text every now and then and maybe see each other once a year. Our calls have been a highlight of a darker time, and I’m grateful to have these women in my life for nearly 30 years.
Do you have any good book/TV/movie/podcast recommendations?
Fact: I never listened to a podcast before COVID-19. Having worked from home for years, I didn’t have a commute and always loved reading on flights. So discovering the world of podcasts to listen to during my daily hikes has been such a gift over the last six-plus months. I’m a true crime fan (don’t judge), so a few that I’ve enjoyed are The Vanished, The Dating Game Killer, and Crime Junkie. The Happiness Lab by Dr. Laurie Santos, the Yale professor behind the uber-popular online Coursera course The Science of Well-Being is another favorite, as is The New York Times’ The Daily, which is now an everyday must for me!
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