Arthur W. Page Society

Spring Seminar 2020 Day 2: Not a New Normal but a Rolling Reality

Spring Seminar's second day was a look at the positives and negatives of CommTech in the context of COVID-19. On the positive, it is an opportunity that meets the needs of the moment - communicating effectively at scale with diverse audiences that have distinct needs, concerns and circumstances. But similar techniques are being co-opted to spread disinformation, often through platforms that are unwilling or unable to restrain it. 

Page chair Charlene Wheeless opened the day with an announcement of the Diversity Action Alliance, an industry-wide effort to advance diversity, equity and inclusion in our profession. At its heart is a commitment that the Page board is asking Page member companies to make. "Diversity isn't an initiative," Charlene said. "It's a corporate mindset."
Here's a quick summary of the day's sessions.

Disinformation and What We Can Do about It

Lea Gabrielle | Special Envoy and Coordinator of the Global Engagement Center, U.S. Department of State
David Kirkpatrick | Founder and Editor-in-Chief, Techonomy
Paul Quigley | CEO, NewsWhip
Moderated by Bob Pearson | Strategic Advisor, W2O Group

Propaganda has never loved sunshine.

The information ecosystem in which institutions must communicate through this crisis is rife with bad information - some negligent, some deliberate. This is creating an "infodemic" that is compromising efforts to protect people. Facebook, given its global scale, must do more to combat its misuse; "speech vs. reach" means the platform should respect free speech, but that right doesn't extend to amplifying it. Though regulatory intervention may be necessary, companies ought to be fighting disinformation as a form of CSR, including establishing more rigorous rules around transparency and fact-checking.

Driving Stakeholder Behaviors and Business Outcomes in the Wake of COVID-19

Steve Lombardo | Chief Communications & Marketing Officer, Koch Industries
Gina Proia | Executive Vice President, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, CIT Group
Ben Trounson | Chief Communications Officer, Global Markets, and Head of Marketing for North, Tata Consultancy Services
Moderated by Ephraim Cohen | General Manager, FleishmanHillard New York

Transforming from a campaign-centric model to an audience-centric one is a hallmark of CommTech adoption.

It's often the case today that the information you need finds you, not the other way around. But the channels through which we get it are highly compartmentalized. This reinforces the need to personalize content and its distribution through audience targeting, even hyper-targeting. The more both are instrumented with data, the more possible it becomes to optimize performance and tie it to concrete business value. Marketing is already using many of the tools that can help communications do this, and the more connected these are, the better.

Pivot: The New Normal

Tracy Faulkner | Chief Corporate Communications Officer, Majid Al Futtaim
Dagny Olivares | Chief of the Emergency Risk Communications Branch, CDC
Barney Wyld | Group Corporate Affairs Director, National Grid
Moderated by Zeynep Ozbil | Global Head of Communications, Arçelik

There is no new normal. It's more like a rolling new reality unfolding in phases - what we do to overcome the pandemic and what comes after.

In important ways, the pandemic is revealing the power of corporate purpose and stakeholder capitalism - especially with respect to employees who are enduring a trauma that should not be underestimated. Humanity is grieving a lost way of life and uncertainty over whether it might return. While managing the mechanics of our companies' response (mainly the virtualization of everything that can be), we cannot fail to address the emotional impact of life in the era of COVID-19. At the same time, there will be predictable shifts away from global interdependencies as nationalism and protectionism grow. For companies, the aim should not be to simply recover but to "build back better," starting with more resilient, reliable and sustainable approaches to business.

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