Beedisha Chakrabarti, Managing Consultant and Vice President, Archetype India

These are unprecedented times. The world is grappling to not only combat the virus and the looming threat to human life, but also its longer-term repercussion on the global economy, governance and the social fabric. According to a report by The Economist, the virus has destroyed $23trn in global market value since mid-February.

Today companies are walking a tight rope to ensure business continuity while keepings the well-being of employees as their top priority. There is no play book to counter this. A paradigm shift in how we work and conduct business is taking shape on the global stage. At Archetype, in our 35 years of existence, we have gone through multiple stress tests dealing and tackling many issues, and learning from them. As I have witnessed many of it, a key learning for me has been “Innovation loves a crisis”.

When disruptions occur, use it as an opportunity to move forward, create something new, reimagine our communities, and change our outlook to embrace the new world order.

Some thought starters for us as we navigate this new reality.

  • Re-invent yourself: Dealing with our day-to day workload and client priorities, we have pushed out that plan to learn something new, stalled creating that out-of-the box new campaign (sometimes!), forgotten to experiment and learn from those failures and now it may be the time to look at some of those. Put in those never tested ideas to actions, those best practice learnings into plans, crunch those data points to create a compelling narrative, relearn how to create click bait headlines and much more. This is the time to experiment, learn, unlearn and relearn.
  • Well-being of our biggest asset, our people: Currently the second most trending topic on the side-lines of COVID-19 is #WorkFromHome. At Archetype, we are trying to do our best for the safety and well-being of our people. We also recognise working from home may be difficult for some of them with children out of school and partners also working from home. We understand that we all have families and we all are people, and nothing changes that. And it is okay, if your kids come in to narrate a poem during a meeting or your dog decides to land in your lap while you are on a conference call – after all, it humanizes the employee experience. Together we need to set an example of empathy and offer our teams the flexibility to integrate their personal and work lives. This industry also has a lot of people staying away from families, its important to think of new ways to keep them engaged and stay connected. Emotional and mental wellbeing is of equal if not greater importance!
  • Business continuity and customer outreach: Regardless of the situation, ensuring seamless business continuity and customer outreach should be our top priority. Remain engaged. Not only does the VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity – I hate this word so far!) world demand higher-order thinking, but this is also the time to think differently, think about how you remain relevant and have top of mind recall. Speak to your appliances client and provide an internal comms framework for the affected production workforce; discuss storylines with your security services client on beating the current demand sentiment; tech client on ability to scale to meet increased bandwidth needs; help a cybersecurity leader create snackable content around #corona related malware. Brilliant examples of companies that have built successful case studies include Amazon that introduced its Kindle in 2009, right in the middle of the economic recession. Amazon went against the norm, and took the bold step to introduce a lower cost alternative to cash-strapped consumers. In a first, on Christmas Day 2009, Amazon customers bought more e-books than printed books.
  • Lastly, social distancing is not pausing communication, or isolation. Now is the time to communicate accurately, frequently and positively. Your communication must be a lot about asking and listening. Not all VCs/team calls need to be about business updates, encourage people to talk about how they are feeling, their observations, their challenges. After all, empathy and humanity form two basic traits of leaders of tomorrow. The other most important aspect is rely on data and legitimate source of information. As communications professionals, it’s our responsibility to weed out fake news and wrong information to avoid creating further panic and create trust – especially in times like these when fear is lurking all around us.

Each of us, wherever we are, has the opportunity to innovate – in small or big way. It could be as simple as an internal #WFH challenge that the current Delhi team is running,  or a big strategy.

These are difficult times, but this too shall pass. Let’s not forget that disruptions and discontinuities never stop businesses. During these times, each of us can take an action – it may seem like a small step today, but it will define the future, the culture of our organisations, the wellbeing of our people and the resilience of our business. Let’s do it people for the love of our company and communities!