Every Thursday during the pandemic, we check members of the jewelry business with the goal of gleaning shareable tips and tricks for doing business – and living as well as possible – during the COVID-19 crisis.
Today we hear from a veteran (and former JCK editor-in-chief) Peggy Jo Donahue, who writes communications for Greenland Ruby, Women’s Jewelry Association and Gem Legacy, among others.
JCK: Where are you currently based, and how is life there right now?
Peggy Jo Donahue: I live in southern New Jersey just across the mighty Delaware River from Philadelphia near the Cooper River. It was on Cooper Crick, as it is known locally, that Ben Franklin spent his first night in the Philly area, when he arrived here from Boston in the fall of 1723. Franklin was with a group of travelers in a boat on the Delaware, which were lost due to darkness. They turned into cricket and camped that night, and Franklin found Philly the next day.
It’s wonderful to live near Philadelphia and spend July 4th of each year at Independence Hall, near the room where the American experience began. This year I have found myself fervently hoping that at last this country will take into account the fact that not all of our people have benefited from the promise of 1776 on an equal footing.
I haven’t visited the city much this year, because of the pandemic, but we went, masked, on Saturday [November 7], when word spread that the Biden-Harris ticket had won the election. In the midst of the happy pandemonium, Independence Hall stood there, unmoved as always, reminding me of the Declaration of Independence’s assertion that “governments [derive] their just powers with the consent of the governed.
How has the COVID pandemic changed your life and how are you dealing with the pandemic?
In March, I realized that the new reality for many office workers has been my reality since mid-2009 when I started working from home. The disorientation of not working in an office is real, and I’ve tried to share the many coping techniques I’ve learned over the years, including:
• Subscribe to all daily newsletters from industry publications to stay up to date on top news and trends. The best of these publications, like JCK, keep bringing us the kind of news that has been verified, an essential service.
• Use social media to follow informal conversations about the industry between your friends and colleagues in the industry. Social media has rightly been trashed for false narratives around the world at large, and I have for a long time blocked or disabled all the actors and industry groups that keep posting on these topics (on both sides of the world). political spectrum!). Once you do that, the voices of real jewelers, designers, manufacturers and the like come to life and you learn a lot in an informal way about how the industry is doing that way. It really replaces the desktop water cooler.
• Attend as many conferences as you can. We are so lucky to have Zoom conferences to bring our thought leaders to life! Take it to your advantage!
How Has COVID Changed Or Altered Your Work Life? You look very busy!
I am! My clients truly realize that communication is more important than ever, now that we are unable to squeeze the flesh. It kept me busy in the best possible way.
Were there any silver liners during this difficult time for you?
The increased need for online communications means jewelers are updating their websites and improving their online communications, which means they need the skills of writers and editors.
Why do you think communications and public relations are of particular importance at this time for brands and organizations in the industry?
In the business-to-business arena, the lack of industry trade shows and conferences means that even those who have never followed industry news sites, or used social media, have to get on board if they want to. transmit and / or learn about news and stay connected to industry-wide conversations.
The same is true for business-to-consumer. In an age when you may not see your clients and clients much in person, you need to project your personality and warmth through the stories and comments you make online.
And I really think a lot of websites and social media communications have improved tremendously! I am very impressed with the superb writing, photography and video that I see from members of the industry, both B2B and B2C. Also, I see new voices which is great. Some of my favorite people in the industry haven’t personally been on social media before, and now many more are! This thought leadership online does not go unnoticed, and you will reap tremendous benefits.
It is also increasingly recognized that you can’t just broadcast marketing messages to people, you need to take the time to like and comment on other people’s posts and have real conversations online. Many more people are learning that being social online is really like an electronic cocktail party, where no one wants to pay attention to the boredom that only speaks for itself and never asks about you! Yeah, it takes a while, but I think you’ll find the weather nice, unless you’re a misanthrope!
Has the pandemic changed the way you will move forward in your career and / or your life?
I will never complain about the time or cost of an industry event again! I miss them!
On a personal level, I cherish my family and friendships like never before, and can’t believe how much I regret seeing friends and relatives in person. As a result, I have sent small gifts, including jewelry, to people I love throughout this year, and I think jewelers can really make it a success this holiday season by suggesting such gifts! And don’t forget the gift of self. I bought some precious pieces for myself this year, like the Vote of Bychari necklace that Michelle Obama wore.
I also successfully bid on a beautiful pair of 14k Recycled Gold Earrings, with Arkansas Quartz Crystal Pendants and Montana Sapphires, by Enji Studio Jewelry. The Gem Legacy auction, to which the studio generously donated the earrings, raised funds to purchase tool kits for artisanal colored gem miners in East Africa. Gem Legacy strives to empower these types of little miners, who unearth most of the colorful gems in our industry, and I sit on their advisory board. [learn more about Gem Legacy here].
What did you do to relax and have fun during this time?
I’m a Broadway freak, so I have turns with no live theater! Luckily, an extraordinary number of Broadway Belts have done Zoom-type paid concerts / donations online. And Cynthia Erivo, who is a great jewelry maven and supports responsible sourcing in our industry, made her own belt on her. Instagram pages!
Additionally, I have watched filmed plays, from the past and present, trying to focus on off-Broadway and regional theater productions, where I know the need for donations is acute to keep them viable. If William Shakespeare and his London company could survive repeated plague closures, they should too!
Those who follow me on social networks know that I am also passionate about gardening, baking and sometimes cooking. I am also learning wine. My last discovery in pastry making was the election cake, which was once made in huge fireplaces opened in colonial New England and distributed to people who voted, mainly to mop up all the alcohol they drank that day! Lots of wonderful fall spices!
Do you have any book / podcast / TV / movie recommendations?
I’m catching up on the Bowery Boys podcasts on New York history because I miss the Big Apple tour as well. I also listened to a Fall of Rome podcast with historian Patrick Wyman, who explains in plain language how empires fall. Finally, our journalist son Bill [Donahue]podcast called Say pro, has been great in these difficult times. He and his colleagues take the headlines of the day and explain their legal aspects in layman’s terms. It is apolitical and a wonderful antidote to most “news”. He works for Law360, which produces the podcast.
My favorite fiction books during this time have included Elena Ferrante’s most recent, The lying life of adults; Hilary mantel The mirror and the light; and that of Maggie O’Farrell Hamnet, an imaginary tale about Shakespeare’s family.
On streaming services, I’m a bit obsessed with movies from the early 1930s on Criterion Channel. Everyone was dealing with the Depression, and it was inspiring to see how our ancestors dealt with bad times, as evidenced by the film. When I want to escape, however, I go back again and again to Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers’ old dance sequences from their 1930s movies. Special bonus for jewelry lovers: Their Dance to Smoke gets in your eyes includes absolutely fabulous diamond jewelry on Ginger: a gorgeous hair ornament, huge brooch and sparkling diamond bracelets! Time to faint!
Finally, I went through a jag Catherine Deneuve, especially her films from the 60s. They are filled with a mixture of joy and melancholy so typically French! It’s pretty much perfect for this weird time.
Above: Donahue at a Biden-Harris victory celebration (all photos courtesy of Peggy Jo Donahue)
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