‘No one knows what’s next’

Coronavirus and the AMA

Organizations are still feeling their way through the coronavirus, social distancing, supply chain disruptions and uncertainty while navigating the next normal. We interviewed business executives and leaders to find out what they’re focusing on now and how they’re adapting their plans.

Here, we feature Kristin Reynolds, vice president, brand strategy and creative, at the American Medical Association (AMA), which publishes research to advance public health and advocates for the interests of physician and medical student members.

How has the coronavirus crisis affected your work?

Working for the AMA, we’re COVID all the time. We do so much work related to the coronavirus because we’re communicating with physicians and medical students. The way in which we’re doing our work and the content we’re focusing on is new and different. We’ve gone from doing so many different programs on health disparities and health equity to making sure doctors are getting reimbursed for procedures to spending a lot of time focusing on COVID, much like the rest of the world. We had to become experts in a very short time. I don’t think we’ve ever gotten this close to the subject matter before because we’re all living it while we’re writing about it.

How is the AMA responding to the coronavirus crisis through messaging?

We’re using different filters or lenses as we decide what we’re going to be putting out there in the world. We’re not here to serve ourselves and recruit members right now. We’re here to make sure doctors have what they need to not only help patients but also to keep their practices viable and remain healthy, and to know what’s next. No one knows what’s next: We’re doing our best to figure that out for them.

Our members are looking to us for leadership. Members and all physicians are looking to us to be a leader out there. We make sure that doctors are getting what they need so they can do their jobs to take care of patients. Who doesn’t want America’s largest physician organization to help everybody? We’re doing all we can to communicate with them about the science of this disease and the [related] legislative activities. They always want that, but it feels different now. We want to be the source that people trust.

“Our members are looking to us for leadership.”

Have your messaging and communication streams evolved during the crisis?

Our channels and our marketing and communication streams have changed. We’re prioritizing helping members through this crisis. It’s fast-moving.

We’re leveraging video more because it’s the easiest way to reach people. We’re using a mix of channels, including social media. We’ve tipped the balance a little bit toward video for the daily kind of rapid-fire, ‘Here’s what we’re doing and here’s what you should know’ content. We don’t send a crew somewhere to film. We’re doing it all remotely.

We just finished our COVID video update. Every day, we cover a topic that’s important to physicians or medical students, such as the financial impact on small physician practices, how employed physicians are navigating the coronavirus at large health systems, and how nontraditional physicians are being brought to the front lines. Each episode is about 10-15 minutes. We’re bringing humanity into this because it’s important to have that right now.

“We’re prioritizing helping members through this crisis. It’s fast-moving.”

If we just told stories of doctors on the coronavirus front lines, it would keep us busy for months. We prioritize, and that’s where the relevancy component comes in. We’re covering what’s relevant right now. We do our best to make sure we’re telling relevant, factual stories. We want to help them feel good, too.

What marketing initiatives have you found successful?

We’ve had a tremendous amount of traffic on all channels. When we get 200,000 views on a video, that’s a big deal for us, so we know we’re doing something right. Social media has been very important. It’s made for times when people can’t interact in real life. It’s made for this. You can be connected to people and have conversations.

Do you have any tips for minimizing content production time?

When you have everyone involved in everything, nothing happens. What’s helped us is having people who specialize in something. In a typical [pre-pandemic] scenario, we spread out things we were doing for the creative. We didn’t have one person doing social media graphics or print materials, for example. We diversified to keep everyone engaged and interested. Now, it’s like ‘Pick a person. Focus on it and get through the next four weeks.’ I have a booker for our ‘talent.’ I have one person doing interview guides. Someone else is dedicated to recording.

“When you have everyone involved in everything, nothing happens.”

How are you staying connected with your team while working remotely?

Everything takes more work to have those interactions. It’s not as smooth as it normally is. We have a daily meeting to remind everyone that it’s a workday and to get everyone moving. We never used to have a daily meeting with the whole group. Our senior manager has been calling everyone on his team as a wellness check, and that’s gone a long way toward making people feel connected. It’s about the humanity of it – going a little bit further to make sure everyone is engaged.

Kristin Reynolds working from home.

What have you learned during the coronavirus crisis?

I’ve discovered so much about myself and my colleagues. I’ve learned we are way more resilient and agile than I imagined. I’d always given us high scores in these areas, but I think we’ve really stepped up, going from zero to 60 in a short time. Everyone has impressed me in some way. The people who’ve been asked to do a lot of extra work have stepped up and have been open and flexible about it. Some of the people who may be feeling a little lost have also risen to the challenge and found ways to add value. Everyone’s showing what they’re made of, but it’s all exhibited in different ways.

I have capable, supportive people on my team, and I think we’re much more prepared to flip a switch again. The stuff we’re doing now will make us even better in a non-pandemic scenario. I think we’ll have a better idea of what happens if this comes back in the fall for a second wave or for the next pandemic in five years. Now that this has happened, it’s probably going to happen again. I think we can learn from this experience and be more prepared emotionally and professionally for whatever comes next.

“I’ve learned we are way more resilient and agile than I imagined.”

How are you coping with the pandemic?

I walk my dog a lot more than I used to. I’m asking my 10- and 14-year-old kids, ‘How are you doing?’ I think it helps me more than it helps them because it reminds me to stay connected with them. No matter how stressed or busy I am, I need to be present. Even though we’re with them 24/7, it’s easy to not be present. This situation is hard for them to navigate. Being there with them helps me cope. It helps me think about things from a different perspective.

Get more crisis communications tips and pro advice for staying connected with your remote teams.

As a business leader, how are you engaging with your internal and external audiences during COVID-19? Let us know in the comments below.

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