Resilience post-Covid is key

but it doesn’t necessarily mean what you think it means

There’s a lot of speculation around how marketers will change and adapt as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic. It’s clear our collective ability to respond to crises has come into sharp focus.

We’re not talking about the PR discipline of crisis management here, but the set of behaviours and qualities required to respond to a crisis that we call resilience.

In a brave new world of unprecedented change resilience can all too frequently be confused with ‘sticking the same course of action no matter what’. It has roots in the toxic, the disempowering ideal of resilience as stiff-upper-lip, suck it up, remain stoic in the face of crisis to the point of barely acknowledging anything is happening at all.

Part of the challenge of responding to crises is to reframe resilience in a brave new way, one that puts collaboration - as opposed to stoic individualism come what may - at the heart. Normalise taking a different approach, as the Instagram memes say.

At Aprais we’ve been observing, quantifying, measuring and evaluating the behaviour of marketing teams and agencies globally, for more than 20 years. Our understanding of resilience is more nuanced than that of pop psychology and when Covid-19 demonstrated to us that resilience has become a new performance standard we took a deep-dive into our database of more than 21,000 client-agency evaluations to understand how we can help empower marketing teams to cultivate it.

We defined resilience with a series of words that reflect the qualities needed to respond effectively to crises. Words like speed, agility, flexibility, availability, responsiveness, initiative and challenge. Dictionary definitions of resilience focus on ‘toughness’ but resilience is active, not static, and the vocabulary set our inquiry yielded is full of active words like change, share, react, respond, and collaborate.

Armed with this vocabulary, we found more than 74,000 instances of these words being used in questions in our evaluations databank.
By merging scores from these questions into a single resilience score, we were able to track and compare this particular set of behaviours with other traits in the database.

What we found was that marketers consistently score agencies lower on resilience than on their overall performance, by an average of 3.5% over the 20-year period. When we overlaid data with global GDP figures from the World Bank we could also see agencies have been unimpressed by the resilience shown by clients during events like the 2008 financial crisis.

Local crises also trigger mutual dissatisfaction with resilience. This was evident when we looked at scores during times of local supply chain issues or product scares our clients had experienced.  

How to build resilience, then? Well, not by sticking in the mud. But changing our understanding of the importance of collaboration and flexibility as crucial to resilience may help. For marketing leaders, this looks like demonstrating flexibility, allowing agencies to re-prioritise during times of change and staying open to innovative thinking.

Overall there is a need for marketers and agencies alike to be more challenging to one another, to use their initiative to question the status quo, and manage conflict openly, constructively and collaboratively. What we’re really talking about here is resilience as adaptation, not resilience as adherence. As with so many traits required by marketers, like creativity, it’s best developed through collaboration.

3 ways for marketing leaders to boost resilience

  • Empower agencies and teams by ensuring processes are clear and timely, from swift and final approval procedures to timely feedback and a single point of accountability.
  • Remain open-minded to innovative thinking and new opportunities and acknowledge changes in direction and the impact on the scope of work
  • Communicate with agencies and teams, to keep them up to date on client strategy and business challenges