Originally published in the Boulder Daily Camera and the Longmont Daily Times-Call.

Where do we go from here? It’s a question being asked by businesses and organizations throughout the entire world. While things have changed, much remains the same. Understanding these differences is vital when it comes to creating productive marketing and advertising campaigns moving forward.

I’ve been thinking about current opportunities, and the future. It’s important to reflect on the past to learn from our mistakes, and our successes. Except it only gets you so far. It may cause you to lose focus as you strategize about sharing your own unique story post-pandemic.

During the past year or so, people have been actively reconsidering where they are in life and where they want to be. According to a February report by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, about 380 out of every 100,000 American adults became new entrepreneurs each month last year. In Colorado, the estimated increase is 47.3%. While not every new business will survive, these figures represent a profound quantity of new stories just waiting to be told.

We also know that consumers and donors are now more concerned with the character and core values of those the businesses and organizations they support. Many for profit, and not-for-profit enterprises have focused on this for years. But the chance to reach new audiences, and maintain current customers and supporters, is significant.

Story telling has always been one of the most compelling ways to engage others. The way we tell our stories, and the platforms we use to share our stories, speaks volumes. It’s not enough to simply share the benefits of your product or service. Communicating the reason, the why behind why you do what you do, has never been more worthwhile if done well. However, communicating values is not the same as touting the benefits of a specific product.

I’ve always worked with clients to help them clearly demonstrate the fundamental values underscoring their business. Aligning with organizations, causes, and people who exemplify similar beliefs is a great way to clearly show what you are about and what you support. However, you better know your target audiences.

To make a meaningful impact your actions should align with your words. They should be thoughtful and intentional. Failure to understand what drives your prospects or current customers and clients could result in unnecessary turmoil. Statements and alliances with organizations, causes, or people that do not reflect their views may backfire and lead to alienation. Each situation is different, there are no cookie-cutter ways to implement this type of effort. Additionally, to truly justify the effort required to conduct a successful campaign, thought must be given to both short and long-term activities.

Recently a colleague noted that a client spent a lot of money a year ago to ensure that their businesses was known to be supportive of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). However, when approached with ways to build on the messaging developed last year, the client indicated that they weren’t interested this year. So, was this true alignment or was simply a trend for that business? Your audiences are likely to know the difference if you aren’t walking the talk.

New businesses have the opportunity to start with a clean slate. More established businesses have the opportunity to reflect on their core values, and to better define how they will share these with others.

How you define your course forward is up to you. Let authenticity be your guide. I like the solid advice of Ellen DeGeneres, “Never follow anyone else’s path. Unless you’re in the woods and you’re lost and you see a path. Then by all means follow that path.”

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