Covid-19 forced companies to quickly pivot in March and what might have started as a short-term realignment has shifted into a long-term transformation.

PRovokeGlobal attendees explored the, perhaps permanent, impact the global pandemic will have on companies during the session “Partnership and the Power of the Pivot.” The session, sponsored by Imre, featured speakers from Airstream, John Deere and Travelers. 

“Our deep, fierce commitment to keeping our customers running gave us the impetus to keep going for 17 hour a day and get our arms around everything that was happening,” Jen Hartmann, global head of PR and social media at John Deere, recalled of the early days of the pandemic. “As a spokesperson, my job was easy, because we had a great story to tell.”

"To literally keep food on American’s tables, we had to make sure our employees, factories and teams were keeping farming running. It was a great opportunity to celebrate those industries at an uncertain time," she added.

Imre president Mark Eber mentioned his agency already established work-from-home protocols, so the urgency to close the office during the pandemic didn’t feel as dramatic.

“Our priority in the early days of Covid was unquestionably our employees,” said Patrick Linehan, SVP of corporate communications at Travelers. In addition to team calls, Linehan said managers checked in with employees who were suddenly confronted with newfound challenges.

Airstream’s CMO Mollie Hansen noted as a company based in rural Ohio, operations were business-as-usual until the governor declared a shut-down. The company also prioritized its employees and focused communications internally in the early days.

“Once we shut down, we went into our crisis comms hierarchy,” Hansen said. “I became more human as a manager in that moment. People saw a vulnerability in me that they’ve never seen,” she added.

She also noted the travel trailer company saw a surge in demand, in particular from new customers.

“I don’t want all these new customers leaving our brand a year and a half from now,”she said. “We shifted all of our attention to making our brand sticky and making people feel part of a family.”