In his book, When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, best-selling author Daniel Pink gives our typical day three stages: a peak, a trough and a recovery. He wants you doing analytic tasks in the morning, administrative tasks—emails, expense reports, etc.—in the midday, and insight problems in the afternoon. “…We’re less vigilant [then] than during the peak,” he says. “[But] that looseness—letting in a few distractions—opens us to new possibilities and boosts our creativity.”
Two of the keynotes for our June 16-17 Reset, Reinvent, Revenue 2021—a virtual event for association publishing professionals—Denise Burrell-Stinson, head of WP Creative Team in the Creative Group at The Washington Post, and Scott Stuart, CEO, Turnaround Management Association, also emphasize the importance of creativity—not the first characteristic you think of for CEOs and brand marketers.
“We’re looking to see how our creativity and ideas and how we reach audiences can be a driver of revenue,” Burrell-Stinson said on a recent Associations Council podcast. “When that’s done well, it’s a good marriage of business and creativity. We used to think that they have to live very separately—the person who was the creative mind was not the business mind, and the person who was the business mind could not be counted on to be creative. I’ve found that as absolutely not true. Everyone can embrace [those two attributes].”
Asked how the Turnaround Management Association was able to pivot so well to put on a successful virtual event, Stuart simply said, “Creativity. We know that a certain percentage will come [to an event] for education. We also know that people are Zoomed out. They also want to have some fun; they’re used to going to Las Vegas for a TMA event.
“How can I give them a feeling that they’re not just stuck on Zoom,” Stuart asked. “We created 24 [short, interactive] sessions on industry topics, built a networking room, covered DEI. We had Colonel [Robert J.] Darling who was in a bunker with Dick Cheney on 9/11. We added a casino experience and dueling pianos, had an illustrator doing drawings while sessions were going on.
“We created variety and”—Stuart slowed down here to accentuate—“actionable optionality. [We brought] you as close to in-person networking as you could ever imagine. Sponsors saw they got value out of it. The only downside was that because people expected the ‘same old,’ it caused us to market louder to get the message out. But once people saw it, they were our great evangelizers.”
That’s something all of us strive for. How much better is it when someone else talks you up, especially a member? That human connection is something Pink also addresses in his book, written before the pandemic but probably more on target now. “Research shows us that social breaks are better than solo breaks—taking a break with somebody else is more restorative than doing it on your own,” he said.
With the water-cooler conversation still mostly out for now, finding a neighbor, a nearby friend, or just a visit to the local barista might be Pink’s restorative recipe. He calls afternoons “the Bermuda Triangles of our days,” citing a Duke University study that found that harmful anesthesia errors are three times more likely at 3 p.m. than 8 a.m., and Danish test takers who scored significantly lower in the afternoon than morning. “Regular, systematic breaks—especially those that involve movement, nature and full detachment—reduce errors, boost mood and can help us steer around this Bermuda Triangle,” Pink said.
That connection to the audience is something Burrell-Stinson came back to time and again during her interview. Before reaching out, she said it’s important—especially during these times—for staff to feel aligned with the organization’s message.
During the early stages of the pandemic, “I was one of those people showing up and asking, ‘What is my job right now?’ I can’t sit here selling. I really wanted to know that I felt right about what my job was.” Fortunately, the Post felt the same. “Let’s talk to our audience and see what they need right now,” she said.
“We did this deep, intentional engaging of the audience. ‘Tell us what it is you need to know. Tell us what’s helpful. Tell us what’s respectful. Tell us what empowers you.’ And they did. And when we listened to the audience we had our North Star. They told us what was going to work. When we had that information, we were actually able to take it to brands and say we’ve heard from this audience, they’re vocal, they’re smart and let’s do more than just market to them. Let’s really engage them on their terms.”
You will want to engage—creatively or otherwise—with Burrell-Stinson, Stuart and the third keynote as well, Scott Steen, executive director of the American Physiological Society, on June 16-17 and hear more of what we can take out of the pandemic to help our organizations to Reset, Reinvent (and grow) Revenue. Find more information and register here.
Listen here as Burrell-Stinson discusses the challenges and opportunities brought by the current publishing climate. And listen here to more with Stuart on how he’s led his organization through this pivot with creativity.