Marian Salzman says the spirit and warmth of humankind can be a foundation for our post-coronavirus world
PMI’s Senior Vice President of Global Communications, Marian Salzman, has appealed for compassion and kindness, and more emphasis on science and evidence, in the ‘new normal’ that awaits us in the months ahead.
Speaking at the DK festival in Croatia from her U.S. home, Salzman pointed to human generosity and community spirit (and our reverence for the medical and scientific professions) as the critical driving forces of our economy post-COVID-19.
She quoted New York governor Andrew Cuomo – a man “not exactly known for being warm and fuzzy” – who succinctly encapsulated the togetherness triggered by lockdown that is central to our resurgence.
In an address in March, he said: “Be a little more sensitive. Understand the stress. Understand the fear.
“Be a little bit more loving, a little bit more compassionate, a little bit more comforting, a little bit more cooperative.
“We are going to get through it, and we are going to get through it together.”
Salzman elaborated in her presentation, which can be viewed on the DK festival Facebook page: “I want to emphasize the word ‘together.’ As business people and communicators, we need to embrace the role of science and of empathy.
We will see a growth of sharing, less hyper-partisanship, less ‘I hate you because you’re different from me – I hate you because you disagree with my values.’
We’re all neighbors now
“We have to recognize we’re all suffering on some level. But we’ve got to hope for something better in the PC-19 world. And we’re seeing promising signs of what could lie ahead if we hold on to this sense of togetherness.”
Salzman believes this palpable spirit of community togetherness can bring change. She said: “We will see a growth of sharing, less hyper-partisanship, less ‘I hate you because you’re different from me – I hate you because you disagree with my values’.”
“We will see more support for living wages and for those who drive buses and ambulances.
“We’ll see more meaningful brand outreach. Brands will need to communicate with heart, soul, brains, and facts.”
For all the uncertainty and bleak economic forecasts, Salzman noted that the lockdown is providing an opportunity for many family units to spend more time together. In addition, acts of compassion are more prevalent than ever, helping to restore people’s faith in humanity.
There is promise that, for all its devastation, this global pandemic might serve as a sort of reset, shepherding in a new era marked by what I call the four Cs: Compassion, camaraderie, civility and community.
Pulling together – a new normal?
“There is promise that, for all its devastation, this global pandemic might serve as a sort of reset,” Salzman went on, “shepherding in a new era marked by what I call the four Cs: Compassion, camaraderie, civility and community.”
Ironically, she noted, social distancing has made us more connected. “The internet is now our workplace, school, therapist, doctor’s office, house of worship, lifeline, source of entertainment and supply chain. What were once random acts of kindness are now commonplace.”
“Neighbors are pulling together,” she said. “They are sharing essential supplies, and organizing birthday and anniversary parties online.
“Communities are rallying around front-line workers and local businesses, and corporations are mobilizing to support workers and ease isolation.”
She called on brands to “step up” rather than speak up.
Now is the time for action, Salzman insisted. Efforts should be focused on supporting struggling businesses and the unemployed, lifting people’s spirits, offering hope, and joining community drives to help those in need.
Beyond its community initiatives, PMI has established a set of guiding principles to ensure employees feel like they can have peace of mind because their jobs and salaries are secure, and so they can support their families.
Big brands need big hearts
She said she wanted brands to protect the interests of their employees and customers. That is exactly what PMI is doing – as are many other companies, big and small.
“We want to know our brand partners are putting people first, implementing measures – well before government mandates – to enable remote working and support social distancing.
Fighting the spread of this pandemic – such as developing medicines and vaccines at “super-speed” – is an expensive proposition.
However, Salzman asserts we’ll get through it faster – and at a lower human and financial cost – if the largest organizations help to shoulder the financial burden. “I can speak from first-hand experience here,” she said of the contributions PMI is making to the global effort.
“My company has been actively working against this pandemic since its outbreak, with initiatives in more than 60 countries in which our employees live and work. To date, I believe we’ve given a little over USD 30 million.
“Beyond its community initiatives, PMI has established a set of guiding principles to ensure employees feel like they can have peace of mind because their jobs and salaries are secure, and so they can support their families.”
Salzman ended with a rallying cry to brands, inviting them to step into the spotlight, show what they’re made of, and prove that they’re contributing to the greater good.
“Think: Action over words.
Think: People over short-term profits.
Think: Vision over self-interest.”