José Antonio Rodríguez
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Opportunism or Empathy?

La conversación como servicio en Lewis & Carroll

To shut up is to stay on the bench when the match requires going out on the field and playing no matter how against us having the score.

Extraordinary situations, crises, have a global impact and their effects extend to each and every area of activity of both individuals and corporations. So far nothing new under the sun.

Part of the job of Marketing and Communication professionals is to anticipate what is possible and to anticipate what is necessary to respond appropriately in an extraordinary situation. We’ve been doing that for a long time. We have designed protocols, prepared contingency plans and established consultation, decision and action processes to implement protocols when the time comes.

The time has come. There’s no doubt about that. The time is now.

The conversation is the best antidote to crisis uncertainty.

Normality and serenity are the best response to uncertainty, but how to behave normally when the situation is anything but that?

Many things may be appropriate to do in times of crisis, but there are necessarily two that are, if not unacceptable, completely invisible: silence and opportunism.

People, in our role as citizens, parents, professionals, consumers, viewers or merely human beings, feel safer when our environment remains stable. When we hear the same old sounds when we see the same old faces when we can get on with our usual routines when we feel we can do the same things as always.

But now the streets are semi-deserted. There’s no noise outside. We look out the window, and it all looks like the image of a movie we’ve paused. Nothing moves. There are many everyday things, without transcendence, ordinary, that we cannot do. We have to stay home.

Nothing’s normal. It’s time for all of us to contribute our normality rate. And that, in the digital environment, has two names: information and conversation. I mean, understanding and empathy.

Overexposure doesn’t help. Silence doesn’t either.

You don’t need to go into details or mention names. There are Brands that have seen an opportunity in this crisis and have thrown themselves for it as if there were no tomorrow. And there is. People are intelligent; we know when a speech comes to mind, and when it’s out of place.

Overexposure is opportunism and misplaced. It’s adding noise to the noise. It is to want to hoard a territory trying to make the need more pressing to convince that the goods that are sold are more necessary. Not good. There are brands that are doing it wrong.

It could be argued, perhaps, that it is not the responsibility of the Marks to contribute to normalcy in these circumstances. Why? Because these are serious moments, anything other than public health and national security is in the background. Have people stopped talking, shopping, reading, cooking, eating, showering, exercising at home, or thinking about the future? No.

There are Brands that opt for silence and that’s not good either. It is not perverse like opportunism but it does not contribute to balance. In the absence of reasonable and useful conversation, noise, fake news, conspiracy theories and opportunistic chatter take their place. Is it good for the Brands to be silent? No.

Because, if the Brands remain silent, what kind of message do they convey? “It’s not my business”. Is that the best scenario we can come up with? No. The situation is extraordinary, so let’s talk.

Is that what the Brands are doing in these times of crisis, conversation? Well, generally, yes. Is that what Marketing and Communication professionals are recommending and helping to manage these circumstances? Well, generally, yes. Are we the Marketing and Communication professionals responding to the challenge of “normalizing” the presence and role of the Brands in the Great Digital Conversation? Well, generally, yes.

Is it easy to adapt and be empathetic to citizens, consumers, users at exceptional moments like this? Certainly not. But it is possible, it is necessary and it is a challenge of responsibility and commitment that the Brands, and those who have the mission to advise them, assume.

Not to talk about crises is ignoring them. Talking too much is trivializing them.

To shut up is to stay on the bench when the match requires going out on the field and playing no matter how against us having the score.

But overacting, grabbing the conversation, trying to gain prominence at the expense of the silence of others, is not a conversation. It’s opportunism. It’s spam. In the match, the same players are still needed. It’s not worth playing with less than running anymore. It’s not worth everyone going out to play, even if they haven’t yet warmed up or trained, to make a lump and create confusion.

The sporting metaphor is especially suitable at this time when it is precisely the sport that teaches us that you can maintain the competitive spirit and at the same time launch a powerful message of responsibility, common sense, empathy and resilience.

Balance is the key. More than ever, the conversation should be a service and useful information a priority.

Crises are over. Normality returns, but it’s different.

The best way to provide normalcy is not to try to be the only survivors, but to strive to be truly useful to others. Users are generous to the Marks that are useful to us materially and emotionally.

At Lewis & Carroll, like so many other agencies, consultants, studios, boutiques and freelance professionals, we are working with Brands, Organizations, Corporations and Institutions to make Conversation truly a service.

Las crisis siempre terminan #cafeconamigos
Las crisis se acaban y #hacemosuncine
Las crisis se terminan y no vamos #decompritas

We have let behind the plans we already had made and are focused on today, now and the immediately after. We’re working with empathy.

Because medium- and long-term planning will have to be rethought, all from top to bottom. We’ll re-plan when we know what scenario is ahead of us. And that scenario tomorrow we’re drawing today.

So, actually, working on the immediate present, we are planning for the impending future. Imminent because exceptionality has a deadline. Now we don’t know what it is, but it does. And that deadline opens the door to a new period in which many rules of the game will have changed, many relationships will have been transformed, and many priorities will have been reordered.

Normality will return, but it will be different. Those who have maintained and helpful empathy will be part of it.

Those who have been silent, waiting for the storm to calm to go back to the pitch, or have set out to vociferous as possessed, thinking that more reason the one who shouts the most, will see that, in the new normal, the game no longer counts on them.

We can understand crises, but the bigger they are, the less we tolerate those who, being able to do something else, have not helped make them more bearable.

These are exceptional times, so let’s talk. #beresponsible