We’ve all heard people exclaim that things will never be the same again… that a “new normal” is rapidly evolving as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and other events this year. Corporate communications – what companies say; why they say it; and, how and to whom they say it – is experiencing profound changes. At the same time, it has never been more critical, with both serious short-term and long-term consequences. Kathryn Minckler, Founder and CEO of Wow to Pop, Inc. of Greenwich, CT, recently spoke with Robert Reiss about some of the significant trends driving corporate communications changes and her company’s innovative communications platform and eco-system for the transformative Purposeful Economy.
Robert Reiss: When CEOs look back on 2020 in five years, what will be some of the most important trends that stand out?
Reflecting forward, I believe that this year’s remarkable pause on business and personal lives has fundamentally forced CEOs to become better listeners and more concerned about the larger implications and connectivity of their companies’ daily actions and longer range planning. This more purposeful call on daily operations and planning goes beyond ESG, giving enhanced import to social assets as well as financial assets consideration. CEO, company and stakeholder roles and responsibilities are all being redefined in real time by consumers’ voracious appetite for more meaningful transparent data. This appetite along with consumers’ increasing and very demonstrated desire and ability to take real action with serious associated long-term consequences, both positive and negative for CEOs and companies, is putting immediate stress on new data accumulation, research and analysis as well as communications. In some cases, companies, realizing the gravity of their responses to 2020’s issues, have even become at least temporarily paralyzed by the knowledge that they need to do and say something but are indecisive in their responses.
Reiss: Provide some specific insights and a framework for The Purposeful Economy.
Kathryn Minckler: We’re still very much at least in the middle of the pandemic with four months still to go in 2020, we’re already seeing an abundance of new data insights.
One of our partners, Just Capital, Inc., has done a lot of great work tracking corporate responses to COVID-19. In June, they reported on a market survey conducted by Harris Poll. The results included two key findings: (1) 85 percent of survey respondents agreed that pandemic has exposed underlying structural problems in American society; and, (2) 80 percent agreed that the pandemic has opened their eyes to acceptable and unacceptable corporate behavior.
Said a slightly different way, KPMG’s ESG Imperative for Technology Companies Report, published in May, found that 74 percent of Technology CEOs believe it is their personal responsibility to ensure their organization’s ESG policies reflect the values of their customers.
When we started Wow to Pop several years ago, our focus groups and independent research determined that across demographics, consumers cared about social issues and wanted easy reliable access to information about social issues, corporate governance and product standards – all at the same time and in the same place.
This sense of caring has accelerated in 2020. Over the last several months, we conducted a series of online surveys, focused on Gen-Z and Millennials, where 91 percent of respondents reported that they care about product values with 16 percent reporting that COVID-19 had changed the values and issues that they most cared about. Finally, 73 percent are MORE passionate about the social causes they care about and 45 percent are MORE passionate about the environment since the beginning of 2020.
These important trends are propelling us toward a transformative economy that will likely prevail well into the future. Inspired by Aaron Hurst’s The Purpose Economy, we have called this economy, The Purposeful Economy. It is characterized by an integration of connections facilitated by technology and the commitments brands, non-profits and consumers make to underlying values and social goals, enabling individual or collective action to advance purposeful, positive change toward a better world. Individual and corporate health are the foundations for their purpose and purposeful action which in turn accelerate greater future community well-being.
Reiss: How will innovation drive The Purposeful Economy?
Minckler: Innovation and collaboration will be the primary drivers of The Purposeful Economy. Innovation will come in all forms from new products and services, new models for working, new kinds of jobs, manufacturing and communications systems, all supported by new kinds of data afforded technologies and new business requirements.
Reiss: What have been some of the challenges and rewards of launching a company during 2020?
Minckler: The abrupt loss of direct human contact this spring and summer as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic was initially a serious challenge, especially to raising capital already challenging for a company such as ours, which is doing something entirely new. Having just opened our first office in January, I also thought that this loss would impede development of our company’s culture but this also turned out to not be the case. Without a doubt, world events have actually conspired to accelerate interest in and a need for new communications tools for a transforming economy. We made two major pivots during the spring to accelerate our pre-launch strategy and significantly expand our internship program. In short, we are humbled by the responsibility of our opportunity and better poised for its execution.