Close -Up of Woman Wearing a Face Mask with 2020 Embroidered on It | Woodruff

Hindsight Is 2020: Four Lessons a Crazy Year Taught Marketers

“Unprecedented events” and “uncertain times.” If you turn on a TV or listen to the radio, chances are you hear this ad nauseum. Yes, for the past year we’ve all experienced and witnessed some of the most dramatic and daunting challenges humanity has had to face in decades. There is no doubt that it’s been devastating. But in many ways, aren’t we always in a state of perpetual uncertainty? Here are four key lessons we’ve learned from this past year to help us navigate this ever-changing world that can be applied to our personal lives and in business.

Lesson 1: Expect the Unexpected

From a global pandemic to what seemed to be an endless series of human-caused issues and catastrophes, no one could have imagined, let alone predicted, what has occurred in recent months. In short, it has underscored that anything can happen. Nothing is far-fetched, so we have to not only expect the unexpected, but we have to plan for it.

From the business side, that means having a crisis communications plan. Pandemics happen, plants get shut down, supply chains get interrupted and injustices occur. For companies to successfully navigate such issues, it’s critical that they have a plan in place so they can quickly take action to address the issues and clearly communicate what they’re doing.

In a February 2020 article from PR News, the media outlet described the results of a PR crisis survey they conducted with CS&A International, a specialist risk, crisis and business continuity management consultancy. They noted only about 62 percent of companies have crisis plans. Half of the respondents from those companies said their crisis plan was updated, and only 26 percent said their crisis plan was “well known” to members of their crisis management team.

During a crisis, a company’s response and the speed with which it responds can either cripple it or help it shine — so it should be a high priority to have a crisis communications plan in place that is regularly updated, clearly communicated to all key team members and even practiced if possible. In short, companies need to expect the unexpected and have a plan for how to handle it.

Lesson 2: Do Better

If we’ve learned anything over the past year, it’s that we are all human. We have to push ourselves to do better and look out for each other. In fact, people expect businesses to do better and step in on societal issues.

PR agency Edelman notes in its 2021 Trust Barometer report that “none of the societal leaders we track — government leaders, CEOs, journalists and even religious leaders — are trusted to do what is right…When the government is absent, people clearly expect business to step in and fill the void…The heightened expectations of business bring CEOs new demands to focus on societal engagement with the same rigor, thoughtfulness, and energy used to deliver on profits.”

CEOs Must Lead on Societal Issues Animated Graph | Woodruff

Graphic created by Edelman

So we, as companies, have to do better — from watching out for our employees’ mental health that may be suffering effects from a global pandemic to taking action for greater diversity, equity and inclusion.

Lesson 3: Celebrate the Successes

In the midst of turbulent times, it’s easy to focus on the negative. But for all the bad, there is a lot of good happening as well. During the crazy, we have to celebrate what is working and what we’re doing right.

Before the pandemic, Inc. Magazine showcased how “celebrating your wins not only feels great physically, but it reinforces the positive attitude and behavior you want to have show up when you face a new challenge or opportunity.”

The successes and celebrations don’t diminish the importance of the work that still has to be done, but it does give us the momentum and encouragement to keep pushing and evolving. Specifically, the Inc. article provided three key benefits:
• Celebrating releases endorphins that reinforce your success
• Sharing your successes with colleagues and business partners tightens your network
• Your celebrations position you correctly as a winner and help attract more success

Lesson 4: Keep Innovating

William S. Burroughs said that “if you’re not growing, you’re dying,” and nothing is more true in business. We are continually evolving, but recent events are forcing us to speed up that evolution. To do that, we need to do more. We need to innovate.

Innovation doesn’t have to be complicated. It’s harnessing your creative ability to look at an existing challenge and thinking through it differently to come up with a new solution that’s typically more efficient than the current way of doing things. It’s innovation that helps you carve out your niche in a marketplace and better address the needs of your clients or customers.

As a company with entrepreneurialism in our DNA, Woodruff looks at innovation within our own organization by empowering our teammates to find better ways of doing things to either alleviate stress internally or help maximize results for our clients. From a client perspective, we are driven to help them innovate as we find new strategies and approaches to help them solve their greatest challenges and stand out to their target audiences.

“When a company has an innovative culture, it’ll grow easily, despite the fact that the creative process isn’t always simple,” says Theodore Henderson, author, coach and business trainer.

A Silver Lining?

Dumpsters on Fire | Woodruff

So yes, this past year has been a dumpster fire, but there have been some valuable lessons that we can take away from the experience that can make us and our businesses stronger. We need to remember to expect the unexpected, because we have proof the unexpected can happen. We need to do better as humans and help society advance. We can’t forget to celebrate the successes, because success begets success. And we must always keep innovating. In fact, at Woodruff, we’re doubling down on support to drive new innovations.

Confused or frustrated by where the events of the last year have left your organization? Give us a call. We’d be happy to help you sort it out and find your path for the year ahead.