Lessons from the ‘New Normal’: Pivots & Positivity Amid COVID-19

Adam Smartschan

Partner & Chief Strategy Officer

It’s been some three months since the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in the United States. It’s difficult to overstate how much things have changed in the meantime.

But even that is small potatoes compared to the true impacts of the pandemic. Tens of thousands are dead, tens of millions are unemployed, and nearly everyone is worried. Health, happiness, paychecks … it’s all on the line.

White lily flower

Obviously, this goes way beyond marketing.

So this isn’t another set of tips for tweaking your messaging or “igniting demand” in uncertain times. Instead, we want to take a look at how a few organizations have stepped up to weather the storm.

The common thread? All are looking beyond themselves. Whether they’re providing information for members or infrastructure for the fight, all are looking at the bigger picture. They’ve adapted, they’ve pivoted, and they’ve created some modicum of positivity in a time when it’s desperately needed.

Learning Lessons from a Virtual Conference

The University-Industry Demonstration Partnership is a nonprofit dedicated to advancing research collaboration between corporations and academia.

Naturally, in-person meetings have long been a staple of the UIDP’s calendar; it’s well-known for its conferences and workshops. And those are no small things – planning lasts years. So when the novel coronavirus forced the cancellation of a planned four-day conference, it was no small thing.

From lemons, however, sprang lemonade: UIDPVirtual 2020, the group’s first major all-virtual conference. The UIDP team, they explained, wasn’t going to let COVID-19 beat them. As a result, four days of online programming were created and promoted in about a week.

After the event, we spoke to the UIDP team for tips on running a virtual conference.

Tip #1: Ensure Tech Redundancy

You don’t want to get caught without reliable internet access – preferably hard-wired, rather than wi-fi only. But there’s a human component, too. If only one person knows your systems, what happens if they experience sickness or technical difficulties? Make 100% sure at least two staffers are experts – not just users, experts – in your webinar/presentation solution.

Tip #2: Trust Your Attendees

UIDPVirtual went off largely without a snag, but a wi-fi blink and a brief power outage did occur. The heartening response? Attendees were understanding and empathetic. If you’re running your first virtual event due to the pandemic, don’t panic. We’re all in this together, and folks won’t abandon you if the stream goes dark for a minute.

Tip #3: Prepare the Speakers

Even experienced speakers aren’t necessarily used to presenting from their homes. Give them the time and resources to do a dry run. And don’t forget to check their streams ahead of time; backgrounds matter on a webcam.

Tip #4: Bring Personal Interaction

Polls and “hand raising” matter a ton in virtual presentations. You can’t take a room’s temperature the way you would in person. Instead, make sure to keep the floor open for attendees to interact and participate in real time.

Putting Technology to Work

The media focus, naturally, is on vaccine and therapeutic R&D, medical equipment and PPE. All of that is absolutely essential to getting us out of current crisis.

But companies are stepping up across the tech and manufacturing spectrum. Even in not-so-obvious sectors, we’re seeing firms step up to help out.

Take Vidado, whose machine learning engine lets companies digitize handwriting in near-real-time. (It’s not technically OCR, but you can think of it that way.) They’ve stepped up across the board, offering their tech for free to anyone processing CDC forms or PPP loan applications.

Then there’s Veratad, a leading identity verification service provider. Telemedicine – a critical tool for remote healthcare – requires rock-solid digital patient identification. In response, Veratad waived subscription and onboarding fees (in addition to fast-tracking deployment) for anyone supporting virtual health.

Likewise, CrimeCenter Software identified a way to give back. Its citizen portal technology allows officers and support staff to manage complaints remotely. Just like Vidado and Veratad, they’ve offered it up free to potential users.

The moral of the story? No matter your industry, there’s a good chance you can do something to help.

Dealing with the ‘New Normal’

For better or worse, we are living in “interesting” times. The world isn’t the same as it was in January. And it’s doubtful it will ever be quite the same again.

What will tomorrow bring? We don’t know. But if the examples here teach us anything, it’s that some ingenuity and generosity can help us get through.

Adam Smartschan

Adam Smartschan heads Altitude's strategic marketing and branding efforts. An award-winning writer and editor by trade in a former life, he now specializes in data analytics, search engine optimization, digital advertising strategy, conversion rate optimization and technical integrations. He holds numerous industry certifications and is a frequent speaker on topics around B2B marketing strategy and SEO.