Insights Sharif Kazemi

Locked Down, Plugged In

On a Thursday in March, as I watched the UK government’s ‘Herd Immunity’ press conference, I wondered how my day-to-day might be impacted by these inexorable events.

I didn’t have to wait too long to find out.

That same day, my university announced an end to in-person activities. After just a few minutes digesting that bombshell, I was faced with a new dilemma: would I like to continue my on-going internship in strategic communications if it was work from home?

I am now very glad to have said yes to that opportunity at Eterna Partners. Much like the rest of the population I had to mentally prepare myself for isolated work, but constant contact with the team allowed me to professionally grow by learning important lessons about the rapidly shifting world.

Even so, the first few weeks at home proved challenging. I would be analysing newswires to collate raw information for time-pressured snapshots on Covid-19 policies, and it often felt like I was recording the closure of the world economy, in real time

However, seeing clients work hard to prepare policies which instilled stability, with us assisting the leadership in their communications, allowed me to maintain optimism about the decision-makers keeping everything intact.

Through calls, emails, online events, and newswires, I remained connected to the world; even as the once-busy London street outside my window became remarkably quiet during those months. Over the course of many press releases, parliamentary hearing summaries, and client calls, I began to understand the importance of strategic communications, especially in times of crisis.

Crises have a habit of reminding us that we’re part of a vast and ever-changing world, where issues and problems are so rapidly developing that they often perplex contemplation, let alone solution.

With time and practice, however, strategic communications taught me how to examine, condense, and present the key details from these shifting plates. Rather than letting the unrelenting flood of the newswire overwhelm, I was able to develop a methodology for tying events to trends, and then to recommendations for clients’ strategies.

During a crisis where the most resilient businesses incorporated CSR and ESG, purpose-driven tactics, and Capitalism with a human face, I learnt that the best communication strategies are the ones which position an organisation at the vanguard of these movements.

By demonstrating value to consumers, society, and shareholders, businesses reap the reward of long-term trust from these demographics, thus becoming more resilient than if they relied entirely on price mechanisms to buoy their fates. In extraordinary circumstances, the more reliable choice is often preferred over the narrowly-defined economical option.

After so much uncertainty in these months, I learned at Eterna that change is best managed by prioritising stakeholders’ trust in your company’s performance and principles. This a lesson from my internship that I’ll take on for the rest of my life, applying to the private and public sector.

I’m fortunate that my internship taught me this valuable point at such an early stage of my career, and I hope to deliver impact from this experience in future challenges to come. By fostering more trust between organisations and stakeholders, perhaps our next catastrophe will be a little less uncertain as this one.

Image credits to Eterna Partners and Harvard Business Review.