As the calendar inches towards many international holidays and colder weather in the global north, communities worldwide are seeing spikes in COVID19 cases. In many ways, the social, political, and economic forecasts are troubling--but on our first virtual panel, Lineup Systems met with three thought leaders from different regions who considered the opportunities that can come to the media industry, despite this global crisis.
Lineup welcomed Breda O’Doherty from Independent News Media, Amber Aldrich from The Seattle Times, and Leah Stitson from The Telegraph. While you can listen to the full-length panel here, a few key takeaways emerged from their insights that can support many organizations throughout the pandemic and beyond it.
Amber Aldrich, Senior Director of Advertising for The Seattle Times said it well: “There is always an opportunity in crisis, so even though we are going through a really tough time, I think we’ve seen that there are a lot of ways we can position ourselves better because of the crisis and find new opportunities...We’ve been seeing where there are gaps and trying to address this from a position of power and opportunity--versus just being on our heels and letting this happen to us. This crisis has given us an opportunity to use our time well….silver linings everywhere!”
The ability to evolve is often a critical indicator of which companies will survive crises and those that will not: adapting during the coronavirus pandemic is no exception. One way to ensure agility is to make the right investments in times of stability and calm.
For example, Breda O’ Doherty, Information Technology Advertising Systems Manager at Independent News & Media says it’s essential for companies to have the right technology prior to a major crisis in order to make it through. “If [the technology] wasn’t there, it would have been very hard to put it there; it wasn’t just luck that we had the infrastructure in place, and it worked very well, very seamlessly.”
Had her company skimped on this investment--or on cross-training in skills and preparing experienced employees--she says Independent News & Media would not have so adeptly managed some of the adjustments it has made over the past seven months.
Similarly, Aldrich indicated that despite her region being one of the first in the United States to experience the impacts of the virus, their employees had already been working from home to avoid serious traffic congestion some days. While the organization had a learning curve supporting clients under new social distancing guidelines, The Seattle Times had already prepared employees for varied work contexts. This infrastructure transitioned very well as employees learned to respond to the new needs of their clients. It is an essential reminder for the remainder of the pandemic and beyond: preparation in calm is the best protection in chaos.
Company resilience doesn’t only mean thinking ahead. Sometimes it means recognizing what has already worked and figuring out how to use it in a different environment. Those positive evolutions can last longer than the crisis itself!
Leah Stitson, Senior Director of Commercial Operations at The Telegraph has seen established teams leverage tools they already had in ways that project such long-term benefits. One example is the use of online events, which have received better attendance and engagement online compared to in-person. Technology is eliminating travel time to create accessibility, but the format has also demonstrated potential to support larger meetings and training sessions outside the office space. She has also seen company-wide systems and reporting mechanisms improve as teams learned to use all the dimensions of tools they already had in their toolkits--like Adpoint.
At The Seattle Times, Aldrich says, “I think with a lot of these shifts, we’ve had to be more efficient with the resources we’ve had. We’re having a lot of conversations about how we can differentiate our teams, and we’ve really embraced technology and learned a lot--this has been a positive of these last few months that I think will make us stronger in the long term.”
Beyond the client-facing systems and internal tech tools, these companies also deepened their connection with their people by using old tools in new ways. Creative approaches ranging from online yoga to wellbeing meetings, confidential employee assistance programs to a fun company newsletter are various tools the organizations have been using to maintain morale.
“We have really instilled our values across our workforce a lot more. Making leadership much more available for people is something we’ve really learned to increase contact between people. In the moment with someone, you can’t always realize exactly how someone is feeling...Greater sensitivity, not only towards our client-base, but also our employees is very important,” says Stitson.
Under the pressure of deadlines and the pace of news cycles, it can be easy to forget what makes any of this industry possible at all: people power. These three leaders believe re-centering the value of humanity can lead to strength and success, and this change may prove to be one of the longest lasting--and most important--outcomes of this global tragedy.
O’Doherty at Independent News Media suggests that companies that learn to adapt to different individual preferences and needs will provide better work environments for their teams, positively impacting performance even after the pandemic has ended. One residual culture-shift she believes will continue worldwide is the ability for companies to offer more flexibility in their work environments--allowing work from home part of the week, from the office the entire week, or a blend of both. This will especially benefit working women, who are currently the most likely to bear the brunt of both careers and caretaking.
In many ways, the pandemic has shifted perceptions that offer the chance for long-term empowerment and empathy within company culture--something that has been lacking in some organizations before. Aldrich says, “What’s interesting about this time is that it’s blurred work and life: you used to have these nice clean buckets with work here and life over here. But clearly it’s blurred all together...Offering help in personal life and empathy for what people are dealing with may breed a longer term loyalty to the company. We can stop pretending that we are all worker bees and robots. We are dealing with things that are impacting our humanity.”
The months ahead loom with uncertainty, and there is no simple, easy answer to such a tragic, complex global experience. But the renewed outlook of these leaders offers hope and promise for human resilience. Listen to their full perspective here.