Communicating in the times of coronavirus

The Brief

Barley has been handling all media relations for Borough Market since 2017.

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck there was an immediate and dramatic impact on footfall and trading conditions for Borough Market and its tradersWe needed to move swiftly to review all communications and put in place a strategy that could be applied flexibly as regulations and restrictions evolved. During the pandemic, our strategic communications objectives have been to: 

  • Encourage shoppers to visit Borough Market, in person and online, and to inspire and inform their purchasing decisions 
  • Build Borough Market’s brand and voice 
  • Champion and create awareness of food produced with social and environmental awareness 
  • Promote Borough Market’s role as a charity and an ethical landlord in the local community. 

Insights and Approach

With high levels of public confusion at changing regulations and which services were accessible at various stages, our team’s agility was critical to Borough Market’s success. We provided strategic advice on engaging and communicating within the pandemic’s ever-changing landscape. 

Immediately after the first lockdown in March 2020, we focused on pivoting the Market’s live event calendar to a digital format. We then built engagement with these events, taking the opportunity to engage with new audiences as public interest in food and cooking increased over lockdown.

Barley’s strategic advice ensured that the Market adapted swiftly to the new landscape, leading to high engagement levels in the Market’s digital events and boosting online sales. 

While the pandemic and efforts of frontline workers and communities has dominated public consciousness, brand value as an ethical, community-focused institution was strengthened through involvement in initiatives like Feed the Frontline 

The Outcome

Borough Market has stayed open throughout the pandemic and all its traders have stayed in business. 

Online orders increased from 30 per week to 200 per day on average and the Market’s Christmas hampers sold out two weeks before Christmas. 

For the Feed the Frontline campaign, we reached an audience of over 442 million through 58 coverage items, including national coverage from PA, The i Newspaper, The Guardian Pictures and Live Blog, Daily Telegraph, Independent, and Grazia Magazine.  

Thanks to the team’s agility and responsiveness, and despite a packed news agenda, phenomenal coverage and reach levels were achieved, exceeding many of our quarterly targets.  


increase on average food orders a day from 30 per week


coverage items with OTS/H of over 1.2 billion in Q1



people reached through 58 coverage items for the Feed the Frontline campaign



average weekly reach on Instagram



average weekly reach on Facebook



average weekly reach on Twitter

The Barley team has provided invaluable support to Borough Market throughout the pandemic. They have been responsive and agile at every step – keeping our customers abreast of developments in safety measures at the Market and raising awareness of our support for local community and frontline workers. On top of that they’ve delivered unprecedented levels of coverage of our online events and shopping service, which has helped keep our traders afloat in these challenging times.

Kate Howell | Director of Communications and Engagement, Borough Market