Keep Your Eyes on the Horizon

I have several virtual workshops coming up and I’m struggling.

No, it’s not the technological challenges that bother me although I’m still not a fan of online group interactions; it’s relevance.

As you likely know, my work is around strategic communications: how to organize and curate your content based on your objectives and your audience AND how to perform that content in any setting, e.g. interviews, speeches, board room discussions etc. It has been a great coaching and training speciality for decades but today I struggle to see how I can be helpful to my existing and potential clients when the world is in such turmoil.

The organization which asked for a quote on a week’s worth of presentation and media skills training doesn’t need it anymore. No one is going out, no one is speaking at conference, there are no conferences. Yes, some people are doing more work through online platforms but that hasn’t evolved universally nor will it for some time.

In those restless moments at 3 a.m. I came up with a few ways that what I teach might help you do what you do and also might help you understand a bit more about how to interpret communication wins and losses outside.

  • Even in a crisis, especially in a crisis, good communication is critical. There are many excellent sources of information about the Covid-19 crisis yet people fall into the same old trap of only reading/hearing what squares with their own personal world view, like the retailer in Ontario who publicly stated the virus is a media hoax. Narrowcasting is the enemy of truth.
  • Constant communication on every platform available is critical to managing people’s expectations and experiences in stores, pharmacies, on transit and out in the world.
  • With all the great advice about social distancing and the tragic examples from Italy, China, New York and more, why are people still endangering themselves and others? My theory is that the information they are receiving isn’t hitting their own triggers. If they believe they are (a) bullet-proof (b) only in danger of a mild experience or (c) assholes, solid and sober factual information isn’t going to resonate. For example, teenagers who didn’t respond to health and safety triggers exhorting them to quit smoking and drunk driving, DID respond to messages that spoke about disfigurement from going through a windshield and the toll smoking takes on your complexion. The triggering message has to match the audience and its priorities and beliefs.
  • As you struggle to figure out how your business will survive, and how long you can support your staff, honest and open communication will endear you to your employees and to your customers. When this is over, and I have to believe it will be over, we’ll reap what we sowed today.
  • One of my daughters who worked for some time in food and beverage, told me a story about an order that was wrong and the moves she and the kitchen made to fix it without question or complaint. The letter the restaurant received from the customers was effusive in its praise. She was convinced the customer experience left an even more positive impression than would have resulted IF NOTHING HAD GONE WRONG. How you respond to the bad days says a lot about your values and helps create a bond with your clients, staff and customers. Many business owners are offering to top up employment insurance payments for their laid off workers, some for as little as two weeks but the effort and gesture goes a long way beyond the money expended.

When we circle the wagons we can lose sight of the horizon. Sometimes it takes a stranger to give you insight into the value you provide, or could provide, to reassure you of your relevance and give your struggle some meaning in these difficult days and weeks to come.

I welcome your thoughts, as always!

Joanna Piros