Are you ready for a post-pandemic narrative?

During the corona crisis, companies had to change their way of working, cope with on-site staff shortages, and deal with supply chain disruptions. Marketers were forced to reinvent their messaging and engagement strategies.

The past 18 months, we changed the way we told stories as well as the stories we told. Virtual events and webinars became the rule rather than an exception. The majority of business articles and remote presentations  started with an obligatory statement about COVID-19 and the obvious need to ensure business continuity. 

Excuse me for being too optimistic but, with more people getting vaccinated, our (new-) normal life is slowly taking up again.

And so, it’s time now to stop whining about pandemic related challenges, and start seizing post-pandemic opportunities: better balancing work and life, bridging the digital divide, reinventing education, creating an inclusive society, becoming carbon neutral, … 

Photo by vperemen.com (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Let us start creating this post-pandemic narrative today.  Let us change our tone from comforting people to inspiring masses. Let’s promote hope. Let us advocate change. And let us metamorphose from covid-era storytellers into post-corona thought leaders and storymakers!

Related posts on this blog:

After the gold rush

Would you rather read a SEO-optimized article or one with an intriguing title?

With the knowledge that I’m a (should-be digital) marketer, you’d probably expect me to defend the first option. But, if you’ve read last week’s blog, you also know that knowledge doesn’t always equal wisdom.  In my case, even seldom. As such, I’m frequently tempted to creating surprising, even nonsensical, blog headlines and presentation titles. Not the clickbait kind of stuff, but rather the ones that make my audience wonder what the rest of the content will be about.

Here are 10 more or less insane blog titles that I created during the past years. Can you imagine (or do you still remember) what these columns were talking about?

Even some of my favorite rock songs don’t have meaningful titles. Take, for example, Neil Young‘s “After the Gold Rush”. Nils Lofgren, who played piano and guitar on the same called album, once said in an interview: “Neil never told me what the song was about. I’d love to bend his ear about it.” While, when asked about the song’s meaning, Young admitted: “Hell, I don’t know. I just wrote it…”

Fragment from the original record cover by Joel Bernstein

Probably we’ve become just that tiny bit too rational when defining and communicating our message. We’re doing too much search engine thinking, ignoring Aristotle’s ars rhetorica, and abandoning the power of emotion.

If the godfather of grunge can be successful with a title that doesn’t teach you anything but with lyrics that sparkle emotion, why wouldn’t I do the same on my blog?

Expectations and promises

During today’s lunch walk, I passed two pedestrian crossings. The traffic lights had a push button that makes the cars stop and the pedestrian light turn to walk. As this was the button’s behavior I expected, the label that said “Want to cross? Push for green.” (“Oversteken? Druk voor groen.”) appeared no less than obsolete to me. There were no cars or police officers in sight, so I actually crossed the street ignoring the magic knob.

The second light pole was a lot more interesting. Someone had placed a sticker below the button that read: “PUSH TO RESET THE WORLD.” Now, that was a surprising, an intriguing, and even a thought-provoking instruction. While the first label was just confirming my expectations, the second one held the promise of spectacular —even though impossible— things to happen. Thinking of the disastrous floods, fires and heat waves our planet was confronted with over the past weeks, the sticker made me wish for such for a reset.

After a bit of desktop research, I found out that the sticker was designed by Space Utopian, a street art lover and sticker addict who applies the slogan “Changing the world, one sticker at a time.” Let’s go for it!

No such thing as writer’s block

I wrote my last blog on this page about a year ago. My key messages were that I had run out of inspiration and that I was starting a non-writing sabbatical.

Earlier today, I was a watching a LinkedIn course about creativity at work by Seth Godin. One of Seth’s statements was that there’s no such thing as writer’s block. There’s only a fear of bad writing. Most people are afraid of being wrong. But everyone has some good ideas. It’s easy to get your audience to be negative, but hard to get people to speak up. And sometimes, something good comes out. So, do more bad writing and have more bad ideas!

Godin also drew a parallel with the board game Pictionary: when one guesses for the word that’s being drawn, there is no cost of being wrong. There are no points deducted for bad guesses. No one blames you for drawing bad pictures either. And as people start guessing, the drawer hears them talk and responds to what they’re saying by improving his drawing or creating new ones.

So, that’s why as from today I’m picking up my pen – or typing my keyboard – again to start writing fresh blog posts. Some of them will be long, some of them may be short. Some of them may be good, some of them could be trash. Some of them could be on topic, some of them will be just a diversion. Some of them will teach you something, while others won’t tell you anything new at all.

As Seth Godin says, we need to start doing the urgent, important, and thrilling work of being more creative – even if many of our ideas will be bad. Stay tuned for my next article on this page…

Anthem

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in

– Anthem by Leonard Cohen

In his song Anthem, the late Leonard Cohen sings that there is a crack in everything. But that that’s also the place where the light can get in. Cohen’s lyrics are often highly philosophical and subject to different interpretations. For me the phrase means that not everything works out, not everything is great, not everyone is perfect… but if you look at people, things and events with a positive attitude, there’s always something good in everyone, everything and every situation.

I already used the crack-and-light metaphor in another post on this blog, about champagne corks and factfulness, when I wrote about (unfortunately, also the late) Hans Rosling’s book in which the Swedish thinker iterates ten reasons why we’re wrong about the world, and why things are better than we think.

Photo by Sarunas Burdulis (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Today, most of us are locked down and locked in because of the COVID-19 virus and our daily news is dominated by the grim statistics of infections and deaths, by stories of heartbreaking personal tragedies and by gloomy economic forecasts.

But, this dark pandemic cloud has also a silver lining – a crack where the light gets through. Just look at the positive things people are doing today. The heroic dedication of health care workers. How neighbors are taking care of each other. How some (no, not all) governments and employers have become empathic leaders. How (again, some) virologists and scientists turned out to be great communicators. The (temporary?) positive effects on traffic jams and on air and water quality. The growing acceptance of tele-working and home working…

We’ll never live in a perfect world, so let’s not make perfect the enemy of good. We must learn to accept setback and imperfection. It’s all about taking the right perspective. Being positive about the post-corona future. Ringing the bells that still can ring. Thinking opportunities rather than challenges. Actually, the new normal may not be that bad after all.

Flatten the curve

A well-thought mantra or a well-designed visual may have many uses.

Today’s Twitter feed presented me with an inspiring variant of the ‘flatten the curve’ chart. The double bell curve, which is known by almost everyone today, visualizes the key rationale for keeping social distance in tough corona times. The chart explains why slowing the spread of the infection is nearly as important as stopping it and imposes a country’s health care capacity as the target upper limit for the epidemic’s growth.

The graphic I stumbled upon was attributed to the Sustainable Fashion Forum and promotes a new way of doing business that contains climate change risks by limiting natural resource consumption and carbon emission to the earth’s capacity.

The sustainable business curve does not only hold a clear message, but from a marketer’s perspective it also shows an effective way of capitalizing on a hot and widely discussed topic. What else could a casual blogger wish for writing a new post about, while staying at home to help flatten the COVID-19 curve?

A report from the zoo

I participated to a business strategy meeting this week. And while taking notes, I realized how many animal idioms we’re actually using in our daily conversations at the office. Here are a few notable ones I picked up from my colleagues’ interventions:

  • Don’t poke the bear. When poked during their hibernation, bears may become quite angry. You shouldn’t poke a bear for your own well-being. As such, poking a bear stands for provoking someone into becoming upset or angry. You may have seen an alternative version, never tickle a sleeping dragon (draco dormiens nunquam titillandus), in Harry Potter as the motto of Hogwarts.
  • Pour blood in the ocean and the sharks will come. Sharks can detect a single drop of blood in the ocean from a mile away. As most of you have probably seen the movie Jaws, you wouldn’t want to attract sharks to share your swimming pool, right? And I’m sure you don’t want to expose your or your company’s weaknesses and vulnerabilities to a competitor either.
  • Like a bull walking into the customer. When someone is like a bull in a china shop, he/she very clumsy and careless in the way that he/she moves or behaves. So, you can imagine the outcome of a salesman walking like a bull into a meeting with a possible customer.
  • Gaining consensus is like herding cats. Cats are not known to be the easiest animal species to manage or control. As such, herding cats is an idiom used to say that trying to organize something, or to control or align a group of people (like students or a company team) can be very difficult. BTW, The Herding Cats is also the name of a fantastic cover band that I saw perform a few times in the past.

It was a good meeting and I’m sure that the mountain didn’t give birth to a mouse. The latter is an expression that we use in Dutch (actually, it has its origin from Horace’s Ars Poetica). Its English equivalent rather sounds like making a mountain out of a molehill.

The Nokia office I work at, when I’m not traveling, is located near the Antwerp Zoo. Next time I am preparing a business meeting or creating a customer presentation, I might pay an inspirational visit to my animal neighbors next door…

PS: there’s another animal idiom (which I kind of invented myself) that I have often used on this blog. If you don’t remember why a business presenter should never feed the chameleons, then have another look at this post: