Brands Navigate a Pandemic, Politics and Purpose

By Red Havas

Whether they like it or not, brands today have a maelstrom of problems to reckon with: a pandemic, protests for racial justice, a presidential election. Our roundtable of top creative agency execs discuss how these events have transformed consumer expectations. We also talk to WEX's Tiffany Wirth, an SVP in healthcare marketing, about the pandemic's silver lining and prioritizing your shuteye.   Show Notes This week holds several firsts for Red Havas' brand-new podcast: It marks our debut on Apple, Spotify, Google and all your favorite podcast hosting sites; our first roundtable discussion; and the first time we're providing these podcast show notes to guide your listening experience.   Cohosted by Red Havas' Nancy Anderson and Georgina Thompson, this podcast represents a truly global effort to bring you the latest insights, brightest thinking and emerging trends in communications from the industry trendsetters themselves.   Trends Brief: A roundtable discussion [01:20] First comes a roundtable discussion led by Red Havas Executive Vice President Linda Descano, CFA® who extends some poignant questions to our guests about how brands are navigating shifting expectations magnified by the COVID-19 pandemic, recent protests and America's highly charged political environment.   Roundtable guests include: James Wright, CEO of Red Havas and global chairman of the Havas PR Global Collective Maria Garrido, senior vice president of brand marketing in the Vivendi Village, and chief insights officer of the Havas Group Sarah Knakmuhs, managing director and head of theWashingtonD.C. office of Abernathy MacGregor   Together, they discuss how consumers want to buy from brands who share their values, and why they often hold retail, finance, travel and tourism brands to higher standards. The role of employees as brand ambassadors is also explored, as is the call for companies and CEOs to act as agents of change in lieu of strong government action.   The Red Questionnaire: WEX's Tiffany Wirth [26:08] We close every episode with "The Red Questionnaire," asking the same questions of our guests to better understand how they operate and what inspires them:   What was your first job? Early riser or burn the midnight oil? How many stamps in your passport? Your favorite social media follow (and why) The headline grabbing your attention-If we read up on anything this month, it should bewhat,and why. Clichés are clichés for a reason: what's your favorite? What's your message of encouragement and enlightenment?   Our guest this month is Tiffany Wirth, who is senior vice president of healthcare marketing at WEX. She tells us about her favorite social media platforms and handles, what media she's reading and consuming every day, and what she tells her children about how following their passion will lead them to the career they need to be in.   We close each Red Questionnaire segment with some words of encouragement or motivation that send you off into the world ready to take on the day. Says Tiffany, "The last six months have given me the time to recenter and connect with my family and what's important to me. [The pandemic] has been a great opportunity for all of us to really slow down. We were all overscheduled, crazy busy, traveling, doing all these things that were super fun and engaging, but ... now we've been able to stop and reflect. And this is an opportunity we likely will never again get in our lifetime."   Episode quotes   "Boardrooms real and virtual have become war rooms as brands had to decide how to keep the wheels turning [and] how to stay aligned with their ideals around purpose during a super political polarized time, particularly in the United States." -Linda Descano, CFA®, executive vice president, Red Havas   "Even before COVID-19, we know that that a lot of political uncertainty around the world was leading people to say that companies have a more important role than governments in creating a better future and helping solve societal and environmental problems. What we've seen happen this year is just an acceleration of trends that were already there." -Maria Garrido, senior vice president of brand marketing in the Vivendi Village, and chief insights officer of the Havas Group   "The biggest watchout for brands right now is to make sure they're being authentic, and their actions are matching their words. The worst thing that brands can [do is] come out right now and say, 'We care about this, we're doing something about this,' and not actually be doing it, doing a one-off contribution, or a one-off meeting with employees, and really making sure they're connecting with each of those stakeholder groups." -Sarah Knakmuhs, managing director and head of the Washington D.C. office of Abernathy MacGregor   "The decisions you make today, think about your grandchildren as being key stakeholder of that decision. You know, will it benefit them and their generation? Will they be proud of the decisions that you made today? And I think if you think about that, through that lens, I think that you will make smarter choices and decisions, and not just ones that get you through in the short term, but ones that also will set you up for a sustainable and successful future." -James Wright, CEO of Red Havas and global chairman of the Havas PR Global Collective   "The critical piece of advice I always give younger teenagers, including my own, is you just have to get out there and do something to understand where your passion lies. And from there, everything will sort of fall into place." -Tiffany Wirth, senior vice president of healthcare marketing at WEX.   What did you love? What would you like to hear about next? Don't forget to subscribe to the show using your favorite podcasting app.   Subscribe: iTunes, Spotify, Google Podcasts   Also remember to Rate and Review today's show; we'd love to hear from you!   And follow Red Havas for a daily dose of comms news: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn   Further Resources Meaningful Brands study "Beyond COVID-19" prosumer report "Leading Through Crisis: Communications and Lessons" white paper 2020 USC Annenberg Global Communications Report

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