For the majority of 2020, the world has been in a constant state of flux. For those working in comms, whose job is to massage out knots, the need to stay tuned with goings-on has been imperative to ensure they brought clarity both internally and externally as their brands steered the turbulent winds of coronavirus.
As part of the Can-Do Festival, the jurors from this year's The Drum's PR Awards gave insights on their experiences weathering the storm. Joining executive editor Stephen Lepitak was Tamara Bennett, director of communications, Virgin, Jason Teitler, senior vice-president global communications and brand lead, Special Olympics International and Jackie Khan, head of marketing and communications, Oscar Health.
"The biggest takeaway was - what's the most you can do and not the least you can get away with?" shares Tamara Bennett, director of communications, Virgin. "How do we position ourselves as brands going forward in the future as we emerge from this pandemic?
"It's not enough to say this is what we can get away with, it's how are we going to go over and above to look after our employees and our customers. It's something we're talking about a lot at the moment in terms of how we bounce back better and prepare ourselves for a future that we just hadn't anticipated prior to the pandemic," she continues.
"There's so much to learn from what we've been through as a comms teams and as people. I think we can't underestimate the impact of this. But we can take all of the learnings forwards and redevelop our strategies in light of it."
"We learned the importance of being nimble, being prepared and being consistent," insists Jason Teitler, senior vice-president, global communications and brand lead, Special Olympics International.
"We have had to move very fast, as there are things happening and emerging minute by minute, so you've got to be exceptionally nimble to be able to determine what the right channels are to go first and how we communicate that information," he recalls.
"The team needed to give access to materials across the globe, with consistency, but also with clarity," Teitler continues. "And preparedness. While you can't predict a pandemic, should something happen, having a bank of information and the ability to be exceptionally nimble is something that we are looking at doing, even more, moving forward."
"It was an incredibly stressful and emotional time," admits Jackie Khan, head of marketing and communications, Oscar Health.
"Our biggest lesson was we really need to rely on the data to make our decisions," she stresses. "We're a data-driven company, born out of tech. So every part of our company lives in the data and looks to what our dashboard says to make decisions about the product.
"But from a comms and marketing perspective, we didn't do it enough. The outbreak really pushed the team to get more rigorous, encouraging them to look at the analytics when we thought about what tactics to deploy including what stories to tell and when to tell them and that is something we will definitely carry forward."
The Drum's PR Awards jurors spoke with The Drum‘s executive editor Stephen Lepitak as part of The Drum‘s Can-Do Festival, an online event celebrating the positive energy, innovation and creative thinking that can make the marketing community such a powerful force for good. You can watch the interview in full here.
Sign up to watch forthcoming sessions and see the full Can-Do schedule here.