There are so many things that we learn at a young age that eventually shape who we become and how the world views us. Not just how to talk, walk and tie our shoes, but what’s right, what’s wrong, and many other choices and moral/ethical mashups in-between.
Together, these form a foundation, or the beginning to a playbook rather, that sets us out into the world with something we can add and refer to along the way. As I reflect on these last eleven months, while we’ve seen, heard and experienced so much darkness, I am pleased to say that through it all, there were also some incredibly impactful moments of light – some of which I attribute to the lessons from life’s playbook.
For example, from a business and marketing perspective, 2020 was the dawn of visible, empathetic leadership, and the year when brands embraced their humanity. As COVID-19 raged, erasing the line between work and home, for the first time everyone from the mailroom to the corner office was in the same boat. With our lives and livelihoods turned upside down and our mental health pushed to the brink, no longer did traditional, opportunistic messages resonate. Rather, this moment required focus on a deeper, more relatable and transparent level of communication. Here at PAN, that meant we needed to maintain a meaningful pulse on the immediate value and assistance our clients could authentically highlight at the appropriate time and place. Sometimes, that meant knowing when they should say nothing at all and just simply listen.
But 2020 wasn’t the historical year that it was just because of COVID-19. It also became the precipice for systemic, structural change when the calls for diversity, equity and inclusion would no longer be silenced. Though communications strategies from COVID-19 still applied, after the tragic death of George Floyd and countless others gave new urgency to the Black Lives Matter movement, the added layer of what this movement stands for commanded more than empathy and transparency – it demanded action. It was no longer enough for brands or leaders to talk-the-talk about DEI, but it was a matter of showing tangible actions taken in the here and now.
“It was no longer enough for brands or leaders to talk-the-talk about DEI, but it was a matter of showing tangible actions taken in the here and now.”
This became a turning point for corporate communications because it was imperative across all channels, even for our own firm, that we understood what would add value and what would add noise to critical conversations. In short, the message from the social landscape was this: if you have nothing to contribute to change, let us know when you do. But if you’re not ready now, we the customer will find another brand who is.
After reading hundreds of articles over the course of last year, I noticed a favored phrase among leaders hoping to help others navigate the tumult: “there isn’t a playbook to turn to in these situations”. While there is partial truth in that, I posit that our mothers, fathers, grandparents and teachers bestowed timeless life lessons and common sense that actually came full circle in 2020. In fact, the playbook was with us all along.
Learn how client SAP is taking a stand.
To quote the National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman from her breathtaking poem shared during the inauguration, “we are striving to forge our union with purpose. To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters, and conditions of man. And so we lift our gazes not to what stands between us, but what stands before us.” Even though the world’s standards are higher than ever, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t all rise up to meet or surpass them. When we are faced with uncertainty of what to do or what to say, we should all take a little solace in knowing that our trusty playbook will be there waiting in the wings.