Thought Leadership – Pandemic Approved or Not?

In short:

  • we have not had the correct pandemic conversation
  • pre-COVID, post-COVID, but what about NOW?
  • We’re here for you should start the conversation, not end it

It seems reasonable enough that because there is a pandemic going on, we should be having pandemic-focused conversations. After all, if it’s something that affects everyone and everything on a global scale, opting out of the discussion is not easily achievable. Even election talks are noticeably different this time around.

This isn’t the cheap TV show Karen talks about every time you run into her at the water cooler. You can avoid that headache by properly timing your trips to quench your thirst and stretch your legs. 

This is the lecture nobody wanted, but everybody got anyway. 

Thought leadership and innovation

In the last months, you’ve seen companies and industry leaders speak about different matters of interest while oscillating their insights between a pre-COVID and a post-COVID climate. 

Making observations about how things used to be and assuming how they will look after the crisis will have settled seems to come easier to everyone than addressing and designing working models for the current situation. 

It’s unstable, uncharted territory, so it’s understandable, but the fuzzy and vague We’re here for you isn’t the phrase on which you want to end the company’s public statement. Those should be the first words your customers hear from you, not the last ones. 

Why thought leadership is important 

As stay at home orders were being issued, and businesses everywhere were putting out messages of solidarity – some because they felt the situation required it, most because others did it – consumers might have actually felt a tinge of appreciation and a sense of being a part of a collective effort to keep things going as articles everywhere online were asking them to support small businesses now more than ever. 

But that got old real fast, didn’t it? A 3-minute read bylined by a CMO telling everyone not to pull their ads as a way to cut costs doesn’t exactly have the pandemic-affected business and average Joe in focus, does it? 

So sorry your marketing strategy isn’t going quite as you’ve envisioned, dear diligent CMO, but it’s either giving up the ads for a while or laying off my staff. Sincerely, the conscious business owner. 

What thought leadership means during a pandemic

No working adult in this world is surprised that there isn’t one industry that got away from being affected by a global health crisis. Financial disruptions were sure to follow, and people were sure to comment on it. It’s how it always happens. 

Staying silent on critical issues can be nearly impossible if you’re running a business. You, the unsure-how-to-proceed CEO might want to keep your head down, follow the news and try to adapt the best you can as you go. 

However, the now changing needs of your customers will prompt them to drag you in the battlefield. Instead of getting emails praising or complaining about your products and services, you catch a few about maybe making it possible for them to purchase at a lower price. 

You’re not quite sure how to proceed so you decide to sleep on it. The next morning you catch double the number of such requests and just like that your next move becomes crystal clear:

Hi, it’s important for us to support one another during these trying times…

And you approve all those lower-priced purchases. 

You’re definitely better at this than the guy that let their CMO go at it in an article telling people not to pull their ads. You could have been even better had you made the offer first instead of waiting for your customers’ needs to drag you out of your safe cave. 

Why thought leadership matters now

Pandemic thought leadership isn’t something you would have had access to before so as long as you’re learning, you’re good. Truth be told the best you can do as a business owner during COVID-19 times is to revisit your thought leadership playbook. 

Pandemic or not and regardless of industry, this thing is still about correctly handling revenue, providing solutions for the needs of your clients, and demonstrating subject matter expertise. Coming off as phony and exploitative are risks that had to be carefully avoided before pre-COVID just as much. 

Are companies more likely to walk themselves into these undesirable scenarios during these specific times? Absolutely. Not only that, but more people are able to notice given that currently industries are tuned in with one another more than they have ever been. 

Pandemic thought leadership – a work in progress

The driving hope is that some will be better and quicker at finding finer operational models than others. When they do, it’ll spread like wildfire. 

But with so much at stake and the whole world watching, the spotlight can be intimidating for thought leaders to come forth and share insights despite their impressive backgrounds. 

Scrambling for something to say just to know you’ve added your input on the matter will not do and you may very well be ridiculed. If you think someone will embrace cheap tricks only because it’s you that’s presenting them, think again.  

People always listen… if you give them something meaningful to listen to. 

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