By Sasha Naod

The global COVIC-19 pandemic triggered a rapid set of socio-political changes, the likes of which are as unprecedented as the global challenges they respond to. As a ‘new normal’ and new narratives evolves, we’re each being asked to step up differently to the way we do life in the collective, and the way we operate as communications practitioners in our professional lives.

Still a day doesn’t go by without hearing some news on COVID, whether it’s catching a headline or finding out that something you used to take for granted is no longer possible, or the same. Our governments are caught in a delicate yo-yo between relaxing and reintroducing restrictions, and whichever way you’ve made sense of our new reality, it’s undeniable that a) we’re in this for the long haul; and b) that life has irrevocably changed.

Realizing this is profound. The grief of letting old ways die, until eventually we find the hope that gives way to the creation of something new. Something different. A way to do life differently, but also the way we approach work – and our work, as communications practitioners.

When the noisy machine stops, it becomes easier to hear

Like you, when the WHO announced a global pandemic last year, I felt a seismic shift. So much so that I felt moved to share my thoughts in a 3-part series focusing on what I could then see as the ‘key communications pivots’ we’d experience in our profession as a result of the pandemic. Our roles are so intimately connected to culture and its creation, and so my insights were based on some of the macro trends, cultural patterns and demographic and political changes I’d been noticing in the years leading up to that point.

My articles address the role of communications our new reality, as well as the (potential) role of the brands we work with and represent. Just as COVID forced us to reconnect with our own personal purpose, brands are also being called by consumers to become more purpose-driven.

In short, with the pandemic acting on us in such deeply emotional and psychic ways, we’re all being called to act in a different way as individuals, as a collective – and as a profession. So there’s a deeper piece here and it’s an invitation.

With the advent of conspiracy theories, QAnon and fake news, it’s clear that trust in the traditional institutions like government and the mainstream media has eroded. In that vacuum, there’s an opportunity for brands to tell a different story. But this is not about traditional marketing.

As the world changes, so does our profession

The new paradigm for brand communications is even more ethical and principled than ever before. We’re craving authentic. Communications now is about evolving into a world of deeper connection to followers as human beings. It’s also about meaningful social purpose. If your product or brand doesn’t serve people, you’re already out of the race. As communicators, our role is now to truly connect on this level; to uplift, help, and befriend our audiences. This means shifting from the transactional – money and ROI-based outcomes – to outcomes that create wellbeing, healing, and which foster community.

What imagination, vision and action are you bringing to the process?

Nurturing the seeds of change

As people come Home to themselves, to their sense of freedom, their Power, and begin to let go of things that aren’t allowing them to feel Whole; brands can have a place in that transition through greater collaboration. Working together is the key to collective agency and empowerment. It’s also a root of social transformation, which will help us move through our current global challenges and beyond.

Until quite recently, a system of disconnect, scarcity and control is all we’ve ever really known. By now, however, this narrative has been well and truly disrupted. In its place we’re now starting to see narratives that are more evolutionary, vibrant, and creative. Stories of hope, that help us imagine a world and a life that we all want to live in.

Communications has always been about engaging and connecting to people at an emotional level; it’s our job to find pathways through our tactics and content to help people and brands meet in meaningful ways.

So how do the brands you work with show up? How do you ‘meet’ people with your work and build trust in the age of COVID?

Becoming a dissident

As communications practitioners we can support the transformation, helping society shift its focus from unfettered consumerism to community, and to cooperative networks. It’s a practice that we can enact daily, as every small gesture we make in the direction of large scale change, actually supports that change as it comes into being.

But it’ll take courage. In a sense we’ll need to become dissidents, contending with those stuck in the past, or those who like to feed fear. As we step up to create a future where we’re in right relationship to all of our stakeholders, we restore greater balance and harmony, and we create a foundation for meaningful progress.

As the requirement for business and brands in the era of pandemic shifts to nourishing rather than extracting, and optimizing rather than maximizing, what kind of internal qualities are required of the marketing and communications practitioner to succeed?

I don’t profess to knowing all the answers, but I am interested in stepping into the conversation. If you’ve felt that this blog has struck a chord, I invite you to join me for a conversation on January 7th. There, I’ll be creating a space for a generative discussion about the future of our profession, and your work, in the context of our current global circumstances.

Sasha Naod is an Amsterdam-based communications consultant and creative tactician who for over 25 years has helped organizations like IKEA, Philips, Canon and Greenpeace reach the people that matter by telling a different story. Find out more and connect at