Photo: Curtis MacNewton via Unsplash

Reflections on a Month

By Lyn Falconio, Chief Marketing Officer, Publicis Health

It’s been a month since COVID-19 changed, well, everything. I can’t decide if it feels longer or if it was just yesterday when I was looking forward to a very different few months ahead. What I can say is that although it has only been a month, I feel as if I’ve gained a lifetime’s worth of perspective, agility, and humanity. Not to mention, as CMO and part of Publicis Health’s leadership team, I think I just earned my PhD in crisis management.

First and foremost, this global pandemic has been a health crisis of immense proportion — we’ve all been impacted, either directly or indirectly. Living in New York City’s Upper East Side, my neighborhood is famously referred to as “Hospital Row.” I’m within blocks of Lenox Hill Hospital, New York Presbyterian Hospital, NYU Langone Hospital, Sloane, and Mount Sinai Hospital. Living at the epicenter of the U.S. COVID-19 crisis, the struggle has been real to maintain a positive outlook, in spite of the blare of ambulance sirens serving as constant reminders of our current reality.

While there’s urgency around what’s happening in the now, we can’t escape thoughts of what’s coming next. Conversations are a mix between “How are you doing today?” and “What will our new normal look like?” What’s going to change? Will we now forever define the time before COVID-19 and the “post-viral era” as our new time markers?

No one knows yet how long this crisis will last nor can anyone predict the full impact of what’s to come, but one thing everyone feels certain about is that what comes out on the other side of this will not look like what went in.

A Catapult of Human Connectivity

During these unprecedented times, co-workers have gotten to know each other more deeply, more quickly. One consequence of working from home has been breaking down the walls that once delineated our work and personal lives, with communications tools like video conferencing bringing forward the lives, cares, and what was once considered personal space of team members to each other. All of the keywords we’ve long used to describe effective leadership and teamwork — empathy, inclusion, the ability to come to work as you are — are being realized and demonstrated in real-time, real fast. The lines just got a bit more blurred between who you are at work and who you are at home.

Even from a business perspective, there’s no turning back from the revelations of our previously guarded personal lives and personal needs. If anything, this global crisis has reinforced our human desire for connection and interaction. The elevation of work colleagues to personal confidantes is the same as companies treating consumers as real people instead of simply as target markets. Becoming truly consumer-centric is the great business transformation of our times, but the heightened experience to (literally) meet us as we are, in our moment, has been catapulted into a reality that everyone will naturally strive to maintain post-COVID-19.

In the business of healthcare, there’s good reason to believe this will accelerate the connected health and technology infrastructure the industry has been sluggish to achieve thus far. Not just on a large-scale hospital or network provider level, but down to the practicing physician who needs to “digital-up” if he or she expects to connect with patients remotely. It won’t be just the office staff who need to get tech-savvy, the doctor will need to know how to work these platforms, too. Self-sufficiency is being heralded as one of the significant cultural shifts we’ll see in the aftermath of COVID-19.

Chaotic Conditions Bring New Order

I’ve been trying my best to avoid over-reacting to each day’s often-troubling developments, and instead I try to focus on looking ahead. My home life is pretty simple. It’s me and my husband. I’m not struggling with what so many of my colleagues are — juggling kids at home while trying to work. I can’t even imagine the challenges they face! But even between just the two of us, the rhythm of our old routine is off, and we are taking on roles outside of our normal purview.

What I’ve seen professionally, in terms of our ability to mobilize, to quickly unhinge preset notions, reshuffle priorities, organize and unite, has been nothing short of mind-blowing. The need for rapid response meant organizing diverse teams, assembling groups of experts, and pulling people and talent together from disparate parts of our organization to problem solve together in new ways. We preach agility to ourselves and to our clients all of the time, but living it this past month has given me proof positive that it’s essential to survive.

It’s not just working, but the work feels better and our work product possesses clarity and focus. We are all united by a common purpose — to help. We’re making good decisions not perfect plans. We are bringing together new teams, challenging each other to work together and outside of our normal responsibilities to promote rapid problem solving. Now that we’ve had this crash course in agile, why would we work any other way?

The Power of Communication

I’ve built my career in marketing and communications because I have a love of language, the power of story, the study of human behavior and what motivates us as people. The need for communication and its impact this past month have been profound. From what we communicate internally, to what we communicate externally, to the expert guidance we are providing our clients, what we do and say now will be remembered. How we show up now, as leaders or brands, will make the difference in how well we recover when the storm has past.

Transparency, frequency, truth and empathy will always win.

Living With an Imperfect Plan

Here’s one last little bit about me. I’m a planner. I really like having a plan, and I always feel best when I have a solid one in place. So, while I’m onboard with everything I have just proclaimed above, massive uncertainty is my living hell.

I’ve changed a lot over this past month. I already feel it. Accepting what is truly out of my control has somehow and unexpectedly come with new grace and ease. Letting go of perfection, letting go of meticulous planning, in the end, these may end up being the greatest gifts I will give to myself and my entire team. Rather than mapping everything out to perfection, my team might expect a different me moving forward. “Let’s just go with it,” could be my new normal, my new mantra. Let’s see how things progress this next month.

Lyn Falconio is Chief Marketing Officer of Publicis Health, bringing 20+ years of global healthcare consulting, marketing, and innovation experience to her teams and her clients. As part of the Publicis Health leadership team for the past 12 years, she is passionate about working alongside the best minds in healthcare; moving them from issue to impact in a rapidly changing world. Prior to joining PH, Lyn held senior level positions in business development and client services for some of the industry’s leading communications, digital and healthcare marketing companies. Her passion for bringing people together is enjoyed by her family, friends, business teams and clients. Lyn lives on the Upper East Side, and when she’s not walking Central Park or finding time to play with her sister’s dogs, she’s helping her husband plan the next best thing for his restaurant located in Midtown Manhattan. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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Publicis Health

Publicis Health

Publicis Health is the largest healthcare communications network in the world. We are a part of Publicis Groupe S.A.