Recently, Sally Susman, Chief Communications Officer at Pfizer, addressed our firm, sharing her life story and the many hurdles she has overcome during her storied career in communications. The key take-away from Sally was when you hit a roadblock or find you are faced with adversity: “Do something.” Such advice is so timely and relevant amid a pandemic, a contentious election, and social unrest plaguing the country and the world. It was a strong message to our 1,500 people and one they can relate to in 2020.
When COVID-19 hit in March, we sprang into action. Instead of hunkering down or waiting to see what would happen next, we pushed forward based on four principles:
- Focused on People – We mobilized our workforce in a virtual network and set up managers to transition to working with their teams in a seamless manner. At the same time, we initiated new programs to support parents schooling children at home, children attending to parents, and individuals needing additional services to get through the situation.
- Focused on Clients – We acquired new and different skills and talent and developed approaches to help organizations and brands navigate this new dynamic, including custom programs fueled by data, analytics and insights. Further we’ve been involved in all aspects of vaccine development, Covid testing and treatment.
- Focused on the Industry – As a healthcare innovation firm, we immersed ourselves in pursuing answers to the situation. From mobilizing our people to fund ventilators and PPE. To challenging the status quo on industry response, pushing for better communications and information. To serving on a number of boards and groups, including the Commons Project, to provide needed advice, resources and financial support. To producing six separate reports on COVID-19 and its impact on corporate relevance, employee perspectives on leadership behavior, and competitive analysis on corporate response.
- Focused on the Future (Generation) – We kicked off our 10th year at Syracuse University conducting Social Commerce Days with students and professors through the W2O Newhouse Center for Social Commerce with former IBM CCO/CMO Jon Iwata as keynote speaker. We are continuing with similar efforts at USC, Wisconsin, Elon, Alabama and Howard, as we encourage and educate the next generation of professionals and leaders.
- Focused on Doing What’s Right – During these tumultuous times, we doubled down on our purpose. We took new and urgent actions to address our diversity, equity and inclusion efforts broadly and measurably. And we’ve been educating and supporting our employees to get out the vote – as part of our efforts toward health citizenship – including giving Election Day as a paid day off to engage.
It’s human nature to not venture beyond the unknown, not peek into the dark, and not step outside your comfort zone. It can be scary, but you’re not alone. As Sally reminded us, pushing ahead opens our creative mind. It elevates our confidence. It secures our purpose. And it steels our resolve. As we’ve traversed this uncertain landscape over the last eight months, I’m proud to see how our people, clients, students and industry colleagues have persevered and excelled.
2020 will certainly go down as one of the more challenging times in our lives. Having said that, it’s also taught us much about our ability to change, shift, transition and be more humane and empathetic. But through it all passion, energy and action has shone through. To paraphrase the immortal Yogi Berra, if you’re thrown a curveball, hit it!
This is core to who we are and deeply woven into our DNA – we say #MakeItHappen. Or, in other words, “Do something!”