Even as vaccines are rolling out, it’s beginning to feel like this pandemic will never end. COVID has been a hardship on us all, and many businesses are struggling to regain traction almost a year later. Not all operations can function remotely, and the K shaped economic recovery is leaving many, especially small businesses, feeling adrift.
Of course, rapid change is a precursor to innovation for brands willing to get creative. A number of organizations have pivoted successfully to keep moving during these chaotic times when grief and pressure are high, and support is low. But responding to a post-COVID landscape is about more than survival. We have an opportunity to reshape our environment to better serve people. What the world looks like on the other side of this depends on how we’re adapting now.
Red Nose Day: Revisit Your Mission to Redesign Your Ops
It’s been nearly 35 years since the first Red Nose Day. What started in the UK has become an annual charity event in the United States since 2015, focusing on alleviating child poverty across all 50 states, and around the world throughout marginalized nations. Since 2015, they’ve raised over $240 million with the help of major brand sponsors like Walgreens, who usually hawks the trademark red noses each spring. Comic Relief US, the organization running the show, calls it a “cross-platform, donation-minting, pop cultural holiday” that culminates in a special night of celebrity-studded TV.
But in 2020, things looked a bit different. Their fundraising was more needed than ever, as kids in poverty were (and still are) critically impacted by the Coronavirus crisis. But the regular approach to Red Nose Day wasn’t going to work under pandemic conditions. So Comic Relief had to pivot.
Instead of the usual roll-out of physical red noses at Walgreens stores across the country, they engineered the first fully digital Red Nose experience. For the first time, supporters could donate online to unlock their digital Red Nose in support of the 2020 campaign, and share their #NosesOn selfies on Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram.
Then, in December 2020, Comic Relief US partnered with Tiltify and one of the biggest content creators today – Sean “Jacksepticeye” McLoughlin – on his Thankmas campaign to unlock donations on YouTube, Twitch, Facebook and TikTok. The campaign raised $4.7M for Red Nose Day through digital fundraising that is helping children around the world impacted by the pandemic. They met younger donors where they are: online.
This was a matter of reassessing their mission (e.g. using laughter and entertainment to drive positive change) and distilling it into a new, digital form. If your normal path forward doesn’t seem to be reopening, take some time to revisit your company’s essential mission. There are other expressions this mission can take. It’s just a matter of designing one compatible with lockdown.
Grounded: Reformat Knowledge Sharing Into a Digital Academy
The annual climate solutions summit Grounded is usually hosted in a geodesic dome in Northern California wine country. In 2019, they brought together climate experts and public figures to spark conversations about the urgency of the climate crisis.
The pandemic halted Grounded’s 2020 summit. But COVID hasn’t stopped the climate crisis or the need for these crucial conversations. So, this year, Grounded founder Julia Jackson pivoted to bring the summit online and launch the Climate Academy by Grounded, which can deliver Grounded’s programme of climate solutions content year-round, without necessitating in-person attendance.
Using the online academy format allowed the organization to broadcast the conversations globally and attract experts they couldn’t have anticipated.
Kindred: Digitize and Share Your Network
Kindred (not related to my company, although I wish I had thought of it) is another in-person event that’s pivoted to digital, this time before they even launched their inaugural conference, which was slated for Spring 2020. The original idea was a conference to spotlight the escalating moral and cultural imperative for businesses to operate with corporate social responsibility.
Like climate change, socially responsible business – and the accountability of leaders – is a critical issue that isn’t going away. In person or not, we need to find solutions. So Kindred founder Ian Schafer went all digital. But Kindred took a different approach than you might expect. Instead of an online conference, it’s become a membership-based digital network and resource toolkit for companies seeking to hold themselves more accountable, and take actions that benefit their stakeholders and organizations. The “always on” digital community is effectively a community-centered learning platform, with intimate peer groups individually matched to the user, workshops, access to data resources, collaborative Slack channels, and more.
Think of it this way: you have a good network. The walls are down now. Location doesn’t matter. Put that network online, and, where appropriate, make it accessible to like-minded talent. You might find yourself bringing together seasoned experts and young blood alike. It’s a way to build community and foster leadership.
But most of all, don’t fall into drudgery or despair. Stay “kindred.” When this pandemic ends, the world will be a very different place. And part of that difference depends on what you do with your business in the meantime. Make it count!
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