My Hot Mess: How Beth Wilson Is Coping During a Pandemic

In a series called My Hot Mess, inspired by the Wall Street Journal, we’ll speak to communicators around the globe about the things they’re doing right now to get through this hot mess we call life.

Today we talk to Beth Wilson about how she’s coping during a pandemic. Check back every Friday to learn about a new victim communicator and how they’re coping during this crazy time.

It’s going to be a great day/week!

Wait…what the hell is happening? 

Wow, I feel really good today!

Why am I so tired? 

What day is it? 

How many bottles cases of wine have we gone through? Kidding…sort of.

The last few months have been a roller coaster of emotions to say the least.

One day, I’m great, feeling good and super positive. The next, I’m insanely anxious and feel completely out of control. 

When I decided to quit my job running the PR department at a full-service agency—at the end of February—I had no idea about what was to come.

Thankfully, I had accepted the role of director of marketing and public relations at The Seam, a leading provider of food and agriculture software solutions, the month prior. 

While I had been working with this company for the last three years, starting a new job and then having the world turn upside down less than two weeks later was quite unnerving. 

It was also my first semester teaching.

(I’m an adjunct professor teaching Survey of Public Relations at The University of Memphis.)

Going from in-class to remote instruction as fast as you could snap your fingers was a bit unsettling, too.

Would the students adapt? Would I (and my instruction) adapt? How many discussion questions can one student post? So many unknowns… 

Fortunately, there have been a few things that have helped me cope during this unpresented and uncertain time.

Running for Physical (and Mental) Health

I have been a runner since before I can remember.

For the longest time, I thought of it as the best way to stay in shape.

That’s still the case for sure, though I have leaned into running even more these days as a way to keep some sense of sanity. 

While I’ve always been a morning runner, I switched things up a bit during quarantine.

Maybe it was because I was so tired in the mornings or because I needed the end-of-day break to separate the workday from home life (ha).

Whatever the reason, I am now an afternoon runner.

It’s working, and I love it. 

Leveraging Technology to Remain Connected

Zoom, FaceTime, Microsoft Teams—I’m grateful for all of them.

When the safer at home orders were first passed down, my sister and I started holding nightly FaceTime calls to commiserate over the day’s weirdness.

Each day brought new challenges, and each night provided us with another reason to be thankful.

Thankful we had one another, thankful we had this technology to stay connected, thankful to have our health and our jobs, and so much more. 

I initiated a daily video check-in chat at work as a way to keep the team connected and provide a much-needed break from the craziness that was March through May (who are we kidding, it’s still absolutely nuts).

We also incorporated monthly Zoom birthday parties, which have continued to this day.

Several team members are back in the office now (we’re spread out, in separate offices, take our temperatures each morning, wear masks…), so we no longer hold the daily video chats.

However, our meetings are still virtual for the most part and have become much more productive.

Also, a few weeks into quarantine, I looked at my calendar of networking events and happy hours over the next two quarters and made a list of everyone with whom I’d need to reschedule.

I then scheduled one or two Zoom meetings or phone calls with each of them.

I still have a few left to put on the calendar, but I’m so grateful to have been able to remain connected—and empathize and offer support when needed—with so many people I greatly admire.

Staying Busy with All Types of Work

As mentioned, a handful of us have been back in the office for several weeks now, so that’s helped somewhat with getting back into a routine.

I won’t say things are back to normal, because (a) what is normal? And (b) do/would we want to go back to “normal” even if COVID was nonexistent? 

While we were in work-from-home mode, The Seam launched an incredible new product— the Food Industry Exchange sponsored by FMI-The Food Industry Association—to create an infrastructure and sustainable marketplace to immediately address the urgent needs of retailers and wholesalers.

The subscription-based platform is not only specific to the COVID-19 pandemic, but also fills a long-term need for product discovery and procurement.

We also crafted and submitted numerous proposals for new projects, retooled software platforms, received top-tier industry certification, expanded our team and the list goes on.

We certainly proved that a WFH model could work, and as an agtech firm, we were set up well to weather—and excel in—a remote environment.

I’ve also kept myself busy with teaching.

Wrapping up my first semester as an adjunct professor, remotely, was a bit interesting, but insanely rewarding.

I received some of the best compliments from my first group of students back in May, and can assure you that I learned just as much from them as they did me (if not more).

I wasn’t supposed to teach during the summer semester, but when the chair of the Department of Journalism and Strategic Media called to ask if I could lead an online session, I jumped at the chance.

They threw in a new book, which meant I had to update the curriculum…but why make things easy right now?

(The new book is SO much better and more relevant, so it was a good thing.) 

I know how fortunate I am to be in this position, and that has led me to want to help as much as possible.

Whether it’s assisting a nonprofit with media relations or content marketing, or simply meeting with friends and peers who want to talk through an idea, I’m doing my best to offer support when and where I can.

Thinking/Planning/Strategizing for the Future…and Staying Positive

I’ve read so many articles about using this time to plan for the future.

We will be in a state of disruption for the foreseeable future, so you have to have a strategy—and a flexible one at that. 

While I haven’t had much “free” time, I’m always thinking about and planning for what’s next.

What’s next for my company? How can I ensure my students know, understand and can apply what I’m teaching? What’s next for Memphis? How can I help and get more involved? 

The goal is to work smarter, not harder, but who’s to say which is what these days?

And while I try to stay focused on the strategy/vision rather than getting bogged down in the tactical elements, that’s not always feasible, no matter what aspect of work we’re talking about.

Work-life balance is not really feasible either. (WTH is balance, anyway?)

But work-life management is.

What I do know is that I have gained inspiration and learned from each day.

And that keeps me motivated to push forward and conquer whatever comes next.

Drinking Wine

Drinking red wine, Pinot Noir, to be exact.

It’s a vice I wholeheartedly admit to having, and it’s something that sparks joy.

Plus, there are tons of articles that tout a wide range of health benefits from drinking red wine, so that’s on what I choose to focus. 

So, cheers to you all. I believe in you. You’re doing great. You’ve made it another day. 

We’re six months into the craziest year of all time. And we’ll continue to pivot and move forward, because that’s what we in marketing and PR do best.

Speaking of wine, my husband always has a good bottle waiting for me when I come home or when I’m done with the day.

He also does the grocery shopping. And the cooking.

Remember that part about feeling fortunate? My husband works, too, but he always makes time to take care of me and our home. I know how lucky I am.

I never considered touch a love language of mine, until it was no longer acceptable. The moment I got to hug my babies (my two nieces and nephew) after more than three months of quarantine was pure heaven. #auntlifeisthebestlife 

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

View all posts by Gini Dietrich