“People-first” in 2020


Read Time: 10 Min

“Dumpster Fire. Crap Shoot. End of Days…”

This is the year of “recaps” like never before. What can one say about 2020 that hasn’t already been said, lamented, and laughed about?

As we collectively look back on the year, we realize AOR has so much to be grateful for, not the least of which is becoming stronger and closer as an agency. We lept into 2020 with big plans for our clients and big plans for ourselves. By March, the universe said, hey, not so fast.

Fortunately, we were fully remote within days which was a fairly seamless transition as we were already working with a tech stack that supported creative, collaboration, and productivity from afar. Slack and Zoom: check. G-suite: check. Pajamas and dogs: check and (sometimes double) check. Our work didn’t skip a beat, but we missed each other and had to make sure we put things into place that allowed us to connect.

We missed our clients, too. That was one of the toughest challenges—not being able to participate in relationships we valued so much in the same way we did before.

So we rallied and adjusted, digging deep into how we could make sure we could support our clients and our employees through tough times. It meant re-envisioning the future of many industries from hospitality to real estate development to higher education. It also meant mask drop-offs, virtual happy hours, escape rooms, and yoga, and happily donating a logo for Colorado Restaurant Response.

We won new business and strengthened existing client relationships, serving clients who were quite publicly affected by COVID and a tumultuous election year, such as the City and County of Denver and CSU Pueblo. We mourned the murder of George Floyd and the impact on our communities as we collectively processed what was happening in our culture.

We said goodbye as three team members moved onto other career paths and we welcomed four new people into our agency family while in a remote environment. Which means we still don’t know exactly how tall Derek is in real life. Because of our people, we can gratefully say we didn’t have one layoff due to COVID.

We saw five new babies born to our team members: Alyssa, Elena, Chelsea, Derek and Kelsey. And, sadly, several of us lost family members this year as well, including me.

But we kept moving forward. Not only did we embark on a tiny little project like rebranding our own agency during a pandemic (debuting in a few weeks!), but we also launched our first-ever Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging initiative. In a year that has created and amplified stress like no other, we created opportunities to be closer and even found new ways to elevate our work. The perseverance of every single one of our people is remarkable.

You’ve probably heard Richard Branson’s quote: “Take care of your employees, and they’ll take care of your business.” Undoubtedly, that is our story. We could not have made it through the year without our people. They are our most valued asset. We also treasure our loyal clients—as friends, too—with whom we know we can reflect on 2020 together.

So, in many ways, we are thankful for the trials and tribulations of 2020. They revealed who we are at our core. They brought us together and made us stronger. They deepened our commitment to our clients and their challenges. And most of all, they deepened our commitment to each other.

Read on for more of our team sharing how they are reflecting on this “unique” year—you’re sure to see a theme here. Cheers!


Andrea at THAT Four Seasons and a Virtual Happy Hour

(Left) Andrea visits THAT Four Seasons and (Right) a Creative Collab turned Happy Hour


Personal Notes…

2020 has been a wild ride, but there are still things that I am grateful for, like the health and well-being of my close ones and that they haven’t been affected negatively by the virus. I’m also grateful to be working with awesome people at an amazing company that is holding strong during this time of struggle.

—Michael, Developer


Change has been the operative word in 2020. A global pandemic notwithstanding, I moved states, changed jobs, got engaged, adopted a puppy, and re-embraced hobbies I’d had to put to the side for the last several years. Looking back a year, it seems insane that I felt trepidation toward all this change that has brought me nothing but elation. The last few months have left me a happier, calmer, more passionate person than who I was and, while I sometimes feel guilty of all the happiness I’m finding while the world sits in flames both proverbial and literal, I couldn’t be happier to leave my past self in the rearview mirror.

—Tom H., Copywriter


2020 hasn’t been easy for anyone but I’m grateful for a team who is easily adaptable, positive when the world seems to be falling apart, and who works hard to make magic happen in the toughest of times!

—Megan, Account Executive


Jack and Crazy

(Left) Jack’s adorable new addition, Margot, and (Right)…whatever the hell is happening here


2020 was a brutal one. But I’m endlessly grateful I was able to join the AOR team this year and that, above all, AOR puts employee safety & well-being at the forefront of everything they do. Working with an endlessly hard working team while being able to stay home and safe with my newborn was invaluable. I’m also grateful for elastic-banded sweatpants.

—Derek E., Account Director


This year has been a whirlwind and a real test of our country and the global community. Experiences ranging from joyous happy hours on zoom, to families losing their entire income or a member of their family. In this time, I am grateful for the community that loves and supports me, and the opportunity that community gives me, to love and support them.

—Lane, Project Manager


I am one of few people in our office who go to the office almost every day. I love having somewhere to go, and work to do. I am grateful my children are safe and employed. And I get to see my grandson occasionally. We can only look forward.

—Cristina, Print Production Artist


I’m grateful for resilient, dedicated coworkers. We’ve adapted to remote working, zoom meetings and more slack messages than ever in order to keep meeting and exceeding client expectations. I’m grateful for our agency culture — and our commitment to finding joy in the little things like themed digital happy hours, virtual escape rooms and the #petsofaor slack channel.

—Hilary, Marketing Manager


Swedish Lessons and Headwear

(Left) Tom’s Swedish Lessons and (Right) the Virtual Scavenger Hunt costume scramble


I am grateful for our 8-month-old baby boy Graham and the extra time at home that we have been blessed to spend with him as a family.

—Kelsey, Digital Strategist


I’m very grateful that we are all still healthy and (relatively) sane, and thankful to be a part of an amazing team that always shows up for each other and can laugh together and create great things even in a time of unprecedented uncertainty. This time has really shown what we are made of—as people, and as an agency.

—Tom C., Associate Creative Director


Even though at times it’s been hard to see a silver lining in 2020, there are still many things I’m grateful for: The health of my family, friends, and myself. My dogs, always and forever. The home I bought right before the first shutdown, which has kept me both busy and entertained. Having a job with people who care. The countless streaming and food delivery services I’ve used to stay sane and fed, and lastly, witnessing the creative ways people have come together to support each other, despite it all.

—Leah, Senior Copywriter


Hijinks and Stella saying hi

(Left) Summer hijinks and (Right) Lane and air-drumming Stella


I am grateful to have positivity in my life among all the challenges 2020 has brought. Although it has been a tough year on so many levels, it has also been one of the most rewarding personally and professionally. Personally, the birth of my son and learning the ropes of parenting has been a truly amazing experience. I could not do it without the support of my husband and extended family. Professionally, I’m so proud to work for a company that cares deeply for their people. We’ve done so much right as an agency this year from our commitment to our clients, work and each other. It’s truly inspiring to see everyone show up each day and put their best foot forward to support one another. Our social interactions with family, friends, and coworkers may look different but they keep me sane and smiling and I’m thankful for that.

—Elena, Director of Client Services


I’m overjoyed at the resilience and forced innovation that 2020 has brought. It was a year full of joys and sorrows for me and my family. I lost my grandma one day shy of her 93rd birthday. Because of COVID, my family and I were unable to be in Minnesota to say goodbye in person. However, through the amazing technology we have, we were able to do zooms to connect as a family and with her and say our final goodbyes that way. On the joyous side I got to marry my husband Colin with 50 of my closest humans in Montana this past July. While many of our loved ones couldn’t be there we did it safely and it was more perfect and beautiful than I could have imagined. Plus we saved a ton of $$ on catering and booze! In every dark cloud I firmly believe there is a silver lining. As a partner, a friend, a coworker and a human I strive to find and promote that lining. As I look back on all the suffering 2020 has brought I see that hope, connection, and innovations continue to shine through. I see continued opportunity to embrace change and progress and to come together and be better. For this and for everyone I am eternally grateful.

—Kathleen, Project Manager


2020 has been a year of transformation and resilience. We were pushed outside of our comfort zone, rethinking how we work and leaning in on what’s important. We supported our client partnerships as their businesses adapted in a pandemic. We reflected our role in diversity and inclusion. We came together as a team while witnessing a nation’s divisiveness. We retooled how we create and collaborate. We adapted to new ways to live and work. We kept moving forward. Most importantly we embraced the humanity in our business. I’m grateful we had the opportunity to live out our values and give deeper meaning to our “people first” approach. We made decisions early and often to keep our team safe and secure. We embraced our social responsibility. We cultivated connection and community within the team. We acknowledged struggles adjusting to a new normal and gave each other grace. Despite uncertainty, our people continued to show up and support one another. We proved we are resilient together. I look towards 2021 with a deep appreciation for the people who make AOR great and our clients who bring purpose to our work. 2020 taught us even when confronted with unprecedented times, we can stand strong together.

—Danyel, Principal


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