Narrative connections

Navigating the Storm

Navigating the Storm

The coronavirus storm is wreaking havoc in our lives and confusion abounds. We are all dealing with waves of turmoil in both our businesses and homes as the world goes on lockdown. Social distancing is for our safety, but we cannot let it keep us disengaged. It is more critical than ever to connect with others, listen and gain a shared perspective. We sat down with 5 executives to get their thoughts on what strategic ideas have merit, how to engage with clients and what they miss the most. Our panel includes Ryan Nagdeman, Associate VP of Marketing, Rush University Medical Center; Terry Marks, President, Tmarks Design; Thayer Long, CEO, Association for PRINT Technologies; Justin Ahrens, CEO, Rule29; and Sandy Rabin, Senior Marketing Manager, American College of Surgeons.
Ryan Nagdeman, Associate VP of Marketing, Rush University Medical Center
Ryan Nagdeman,
Associate VP of Marketing, Rush University Medical Center
Terry Marks, President, Tmarks Design
Terry Marks,
President, Tmarks Design
Thayer Long, CEO, Association for PRINT Technologies
Thayer Long,
CEO, Association for PRINT Technologies
Justin Ahrens, CEO, Rule29
Justin Ahrens,
CEO, Rule29
andy Rabin, Senior Marketing Manager, American College of Surgeons
Sandy Rabin,
Senior Marketing Manager, American College of Surgeons

What strategies are you using to switch your mindset from crisis to creative?

Rabin: This is tricky because we are in fact working on the crisis now and have to use our creativity to address it head on. Because of that we are in crisis and creative mode simultaneously.

Marks: This switch is vital not only for business concerns but for the bettering of life as we know it. And life as we know it is weird at the moment. But that does not mean that it must only be doom.

All around us we see people mobilizing to help. It’s not merely for likes and societal approval. It’s to help, in whatever way they can because this challenge is one we all face. We do what we can and we do it to the best of our ability. That is a strategy to live by always.

Ahrens: The main mindset after a few overwhelming days is to authentically live in the state that we were created to live in. If I learned anything from the last couple of crisises, even though each one has its own unique challenges, is you can’t panic. Stay smart, focus on what you are best at, and be ready to make any decision that you have to make because you have a plan or you’re busy making one. Communicate. Be confident. Lean into your community and be someone that can be leaned on. Together we will make it, but it’s going to be challenging.

Long: Alcohol. Lots and lots of alcohol. Kidding of course. Look, our industry has been in “crisis” for a long time. If you haven’t already been in a mindset on how to create more value for your customers, it’s a wonder you are still in business, and your odds of going out of business are high if you don’t quickly adapt to a creative mindset like Justin said. Such a mindset requires you think entirely different about what you do, and what your purpose is. Businesses will need to bring a deeper meaning to their work.

Nagdeman: We are thinking about how to (re)attract business back to the hospital when the curve flattens and life returns to some version of normal. I actually asked my team to make a blog about how they are coping with working from home. Interestingly, using video conferences allows us to quickly get to the most important work of the day. It has been a bit more efficient and may provide some ideas into the future of collaborative work efforts.

What compelling ways are you inspiring confidence in your customers?

Nagdeman: Look at our media and social media. Our leaders are on the news ALL the time. Digital billboards. Heck, wash your hands is on the side of our building and I see no better way to instill trust than to adhere to guidelines.

Ahrens: The first and most important is as old as time: simply asking how they are doing. Listening. Then ask what they need most. Because the most important time for their marketing plans was a year ago. The second most important time is right now. From there we lean into ways we can help them in the most impactful way possible, even if that is just checking in.

Rabin: Our internal clients are in the same crisis mode as our creative team. They rely heavily on us to communicate both to them, to our members and to the world so again, this is tricky. We work with them constantly so I’m not sure how we are actually inspiring this other than ongoing communication.

Marks: In Hamlet there is a line that says, “We’ll teach you to drink deep ere you depart.” I am no scholar but I think it means that we are to drink deep of life: from the rich and sweet to the bitter, for that is a full and true life. So, I’ve got a bunch of ideas cooking and am offering them to clients, despite much being put on hold. I just know that serving our clients to the best of our ability might inspire some confidence; it’s our hope to do so regardless of what happens in the world.

Long: Confidence is built on a foundation of trust. Be honest with your customers and your team. Tell them what they need to hear, not what they want to hear. Tell them how you are going to deliver value. Then do it.

What are you missing right now?

Ahrens: Now is the time to get your personas nailed and get your marketing campaigns going. But you can only do that if you’re asking questions, listening and providing solutions with context. The more personalized and targeted is always going to perform and competition is going to push us all to be better!

Marks: We are all missing our normal. We are all missing the chance to prosper. But that does not mean we cannot flourish. In fact, some of us might be at our best in this moment.

Nagdeman: Sleep. Now I’m kidding. We are not missing it, but we are trying our very best to keep people, supplies and beds available. That is our focus as we are right in the middle of this thing.

Long: Human interaction. After 9/11, people came together. To pray. To mourn. To comfort. To serve. We cannot do that in the exact same way but the spirit remains the same. We will persevere and we will reconnect!

Rabin: I really miss face to face meetings and human interaction. And, certainly direct access to the server!