Think held a great webinar recently with Matt Roberts, membership director of the Chartered Management Institute (CMI), as our special guest. CMI has been on the front foot in the Covid-19 crisis in terms of how it communicates with members. Matt explained that good management and leadership, which might sometimes feel slightly academic, is now quite clearly of paramount importance in society. We absolutely need our leaders – whether they’re in politics, the NHS or education – to step up. What we don’t need, he said, is the kind of knee-jerk decision-making that we saw in the early stages of the crisis.
CMI has access to a treasure trove of management best practice through its ManagementDirect portal, articles and, indeed, the membership itself. Matt said, as soon as the Institute knew the scale of the crisis, it knew it had to help members and the wider management community. Whatever sector you’re in, good management can make all the difference.
The webinar was attended by 30-plus people, and in the Q&A, conversation turned to the changes that professional membership bodies are making to their content, communications and event strategies during the crisis – and which of these will stick in the long run.
So, for a bit of fun, we’ve created this open article. Using some of the webinar insights plus what we’re seeing in the market, we’ve offered up a list of suggested lasting changes to kick things off.
But what are your forecasts about the changes that will stick? We’d love to hear. Once we’re done, we’ll compile all the wisdom into a special ‘content strategy post-Covid’ report. And you’ll be the first to receive it – promise!
(Just one point: we’ve specifically not addressed content channels in this list. That’s already well covered in Think’s annual Re:member research as well as in others such as the Global Statshot report.)
- Technical experts are the new kings of content. Professor Chris Whitty. Epidemiology. The R number. Michael Gove’s assertion back in 2016 that “Britain has had enough of experts” is surely no longer true. And if there’s one thing that professional membership bodies have, it’s experts. Keep embracing your ology.
- Meet the extremely accessible CEOs. The likes of Steve Nash at the IMI, Alastair McCapra at CIPR and Ann Francke at CMI have been sensitive and highly engaged with members through the crisis. This level of accessibility will surely continue…?
- Hypersensitive content planning is here to stay. For the moment it’s short-term content plans all the way. That said, there’s an important question about how long this will last and when professional organisations will return to longer-term content planning. In normal times, professional bodies are better off not chasing the news but going for ‘evergreen’ value in their content and analysis.
- Active redeployment of resources is the future. All over the economy, people are being redeployed into new roles. From a content point of view, we’ve retooled people with specialist knowledge, especially around subjects like finance and HR, into expert commentators during the crisis. Post-crisis, we predict that knowledge resources will remain fluid.
- Being context-aware will be crucial. All your content – events, webinars, blogs, social – will need to remain as context-aware as it has been for the past few months. Keep your eyes and ears open for the news and changing circumstances.
- Rapid evidence-gathering will continue. If this crisis has shown anything it’s that data and insight can be gathered more quickly than you could ever have imagined. Many professional bodies have moved super-quickly to understand the issues facing their members. We think this rapid and frequent temperature-taking will continue.
- Speed to insight will be a thing. In market research circles, the hot topic over the past year or two has been ‘speed to insight’ – how quickly can you convert research into valuable nuggets of information that make a difference in your organisation? That is a question that will be asked by professional bodies regularly in future.
- We’ll celebrate new Covid heroines and heroes. We’ve clapped for carers. We’ve marvelled at Captain Tom Moore. Within professional membership bodies there are many individuals and teams who have shown extraordinary skill and generosity during the crisis. Most professional bodies have their own awards ceremonies, and it would seem right to honour these people at those events in the coming months.
- Global summits will emerge. Most membership organisations have an annual conference. Normally budgets have prevented them from inviting speakers from around the world. Now that we’re all used to attending events online – by Zoom, Teams etc – it’s become feasible for UK professional bodies to host truly global events in future.
- Events may be unconstrained by time. One of the guests at our webinar asked: are people really likely to attend a day-long Zoom conference? Good question. But why do events now have to be ‘day-long’? Why do they have to be only held on one day? We’ve done it like that previously because we had to book out a hotel or venue for the day. But what about staggering your events over, say, a week? How about an event that takes place every lunchtime for one week, bringing together speakers at a regular slot? Just a thought…
- Striking the right tone will be more important than ever. We’ve spent a lot of time during the crisis talking with our clients about tone. All have been very aware of the need to strike the right note. Yes, we must be seen to stay calm and pragmatic but equally we mustn’t ignore the gravity of the situation. When is the right time to use humour, if at all? These are the kinds of issues that have been thrown up and will continue to be crucial in the delicate coming months as we move gradually out of lockdown.
- We’ll initiate relationships face to face. It’s been great collaborating with clients via Google hangouts, Team meetings etc. Meetings held on these platforms can be highly productive, but personally I’m unconvinced that you can really initiate a relationship via Zoom. You can maintain a relationship very effectively online, but for me the initial chemistry and mutual understanding still needs to be done face to face. Can’t wait to see you…
So, what do you think? What will be the permanent changes to content strategy and content development that the crisis will cause? We’d love to know your thoughts. Email Matthew or get in touch on LinkedIn and Twitter, and we’ll start building up the definitive view.