Powering Through 2020

I didn’t want to write this blog.

Truth be told, I first ignored the email request from Stratacomm’s marketing team suggesting I draft an end-of-year, lessons learned piece. From the pandemic and recession, to social unrest and the election, the stress all this put on our team was not something I wanted to revisit in a company blog.  So, I sat with the request for a while. Yet, as you are reading here, I went ahead anyway. Here’s why.

For every challenge 2020 threw at us – and they are real challenges with real consequences – our team was resilient and created silver linings. And that’s worth celebrating. All the more so, since this year marks Stratacomm’s silver anniversary.

COVID-19. When the scale of the pandemic became clear, our team’s perspectives and priorities quickly changed. Our people took on a #StratacommStrong mindset, where they deepened their relationships with their colleagues and their clients. As we Zoomed into each other’s homes, people shared their concerns and supported each other in countless ways. And our clients noticeably increased expressions of gratitude for our efforts during difficult times. We offered our teams even greater flexibility to deal with remote work challenges, and they never missed a beat, as borne out by exceptionally positive client and employee survey results

The Recession. I’m old enough to remember when communications budgets were the first to be slashed when belts were tightened. Today, clients understand more than ever, that internal and external communications are vital during any crisis. We stood by our clients and they stood by us – and for this we are exceptionally grateful. While this is not the growth year we’d worked toward, Stratacomm is fortunate. We even released our first national television spot (and then two more) and expanded our advertising and digital teams. Our overall successes this year are 100% attributable to the great client work our people delivered in the face of a challenging year.        

Racial and Cultural Reckoning. With a string of high-profile injustices in short order, the murder of George Floyd sparked a national outcry about the ugly legacy of racism that, despite progress, still permeates today. Rather than step around this hot button issue, we convened an impromptu company video call to acknowledge the pain many were feeling. People shared. People listened. People cried. It was among the most moving moments I’ve experienced in a professional setting in my entire career. But we did more than talk. We created Stratacomm’s first-ever Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council. We are looking inward and taking concrete steps to ensure Stratacomm continues to put our values into action and to hold ourselves accountable for ongoing progress on all fronts.

The Election. We are a non-partisan agency. Like the rest of America, our people hold varying and often deeply personal views on what direction they believe the nation should move. We’ve long encouraged our team to vote (and our open vacation policy ensures appropriate time off), but this year we believed it was not enough. Stratacomm added our name to the non-partisan Civic Alliance of U.S. companies supporting employees and clients as they exercised their Constitutional right to vote. Our voice added to the chorus of others: “We call for safe access to the polls for all voters. We recognize election officials as the trusted source for certified results. And we encourage patience as officials count every vote.” Hardly a controversial stand in normal times. Yet we know for our democracy to work for everyone, business leaders must speak up when it matters most. So we did.

As we look ahead to the promise of a new year, bright spots are emerging on the horizon. Vaccines, re-uniting with family and friends, returning to onsite work, the economy rebounding and so much more. No doubt, there will be challenges, too. But whatever comes at us, Stratacomm will be ready. 2020 showed us the way. 

John F. Fitzpatrick co-manages Stratacomm, an integrated communications agency entrusted by corporations, trade associations, non-profits, and federal agencies to help solve their most pressing communication challenges. In recent years, Stratacomm was honored in Washingtonian Magazine’s “50 Great Places to Work,” Metro Detroit’s “Best and Brightest Companies to Work For,” and PR News’ list of “Top Places to Work in PR!”

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