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How the pandemic transformed one global business and the four lessons it offers others

The pandemic forced marketing teams far beyond their comfort zones. I’ve had to do many things for the first time as part of adapting a global marketing organisation in response to a pandemic.

Now with (just) a moment or two to reflect, I see that our ability to tap into available information about our internal and external audiences – combined with moving to new engagement models – were pivotal to our success. With the second wave impacting people around the globe, it’s critical companies of all sizes take on board the lessons of the crisis. Here are four.

Deliver co-ordinated communications
FIS is a global organisation with 50,000 employees in the United Kingdom, India and elsewhere spread across five continents. With such a large footprint, our communications needed to be co-ordinated.

One thing working in our favour was the sheer scale of the issue before us. We could be laser-focused on delivering the material that would help our employees and clients navigate the rapidly shifting space on the ground.

We held daily marketing all hands-on meetings to discuss updates from the executive team and questions from employees and the local media. Personally, I found myself speaking to the team with more frequency and regularity than before the crisis.

Go beyond comfort zones
Our motto is “changing how the world pays, banks and invests.” The pandemic forced us to accelerate that change. Within weeks we added capacity to our trading systems, implemented an increased limit for contactless payments and assisted banks in providing member services with shuttered banks. The marketing team was frequently brought into these conversations.

New audiences and partners emerged. At FIS we needed to work with the Indian, Filipine and Brazilan governments to ensure compliance when processing sensitive financial records. By partnering with government relations we moved employees to nearby hotels with meals to keep them working during the crisis.

Use different communication platforms
Varying our communication methods – from emerging video conference platforms, email, text, WhatsApp and video – for different types of messages helped underscore their tone and purpose.

We relied on routine, informal updates from company leadership to rally our employees, emphasizing their critical role in keeping the global economy running. We used iPhones to shoot a series of videos keeping our employees up to date on the latest developments.

For time-sensitive, intra-day communications we used Yammer, social channels, our intranet and WhatsApp, enabling us to quickly reach our employee base. For client communications we shot videos outdoors with proper social distancing, bringing professional video production capabilities to our key executive leaders. Building out this business-critical technology infrastructure in home offices creates an agile structure to execute virtual marketing and communications strategies from anywhere, anytime.

Experiment with new tools
We’ve been ‘digital first’ for years, but the pandemic changed what that meant.

Covid-19 showed that virtual and self-navigating strategies can be used as engagement tools to drive sales and marketing initiatives, not simply supplement them. Virtual marketing tools – from more engaging demos to enhanced video conferencing – can deepen relationships and accelerate the sales pipeline.

This period has been one of profound challenge, learning and growth. I have been inspired by many accounts of others’ experiences, and encouraged to see that ultimately leaning into core competencies – knowing your audience, leveraging technology, constantly evolving – will position your marketing and communications function as leaders through any crisis situation.

Written by Ellyn Raftery, chief marketing and communications officer at financial technology firm FIS

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