The other day, my teenager said of 2020: “Living through history is hard.”

That’s an understatement. 2020 has progressed with one daily crisis after the next: A pandemic caused by a novel virus. Economic collapse and widespread unemployment. Earthquakes. Floods. Murder hornets.  

Not to mention difficult but important and necessary social justice awakening and change.

2020 is hard.

As we live through this year of unpredictable — save for consistent — crises and change, we at Sinclair & Co. offer tips for our clients and everyone else:

  • Be flexible.

Now is not the time to stick rigidly to a blog topics schedule or conduct the client satisfaction research outlined in your marketing plan from January. (Spoiler alert: EVERYONE is dissatisfied right now.) 

Now is the time to think about your clients in the context of our current cultural, social and business landscape. What do they need to hear from you? What is relevant to their situation? What are you doing to support their company or community?

A long-term communication plan must take a backseat to being in and aware of the current moment.

  • Listen, learn, do.*

In the aftermath of George Floyd’s death, white Americans are recognizing what their Black neighbors have known for years — that our country is not a level playing field.

Many S&CO clients recognize and respect this fact, but they are unsure what to say or how to respond. Or whether it’s appropriate to say something or respond.

Companies — which are overwhelmingly managed by white people — should seek out and listen to minority voices, and learn how to do better and be better.

They should learn from those conversations.

And most importantly, they should do something within their power to enact change within their organizations and the broader community.

So listen to communicators when we say that actions speak louder than words.

  • Be open to change.

For 35 years, I typed the b in “Black people” as a lowercase b. It was how I was taught in journalism school and what the Associated Press Stylebook — a Bible of sorts to wordsmiths like me — said to do.

This week, AP Stylebook said Black should be capitalized when referring to people, and lowercase when referring to color, as in dress or crayon.

I was somewhat surprised how easily I quit this 35-year-old habit.

2020 is teaching all of us that long-time habits and pre-conceived notions have got to go.

The same is true for companies. Organizations tend to have rigid policies in place for health, safety and legal reasons.

But could they create a better environment for employees and customers if they were open to making changes? It’s worth asking the question.

As hard as change can be, I believe the crises of 2020 are driving us toward more flexible, more understanding, and more accepting places — as individuals, as companies, as a society. If so — and if this interminable year ever ends — it will be well worth it.

* Thanks to J. Walker Smith