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Brand Strategy Technology

Lessons learnt from a virtual Davos

By Katie Clift

February 1, 2022 | 5 min read

Katie Clift, corporate affairs manager at the World Economic Forum, shares her learnings from managing another edition of the power-packed Davos virtually “without wearing the snow boots or being present in the minus 10 temperatures”.


Another edition of a virtual Davos Summit

31 virtual sessions, including 10 special addresses from the likes of Xi Jinping, Olaf Scholz, Ursula Von der Leyen and Narendra Modi. 2,000 registered participants and millions of Livestream views. That pretty much sums up The Davos Agenda – the World Economic Forum’s virtual meeting hosted recently.

We swapped snow boots and minus 10 temperatures for zoom panels and Q&A chat boxes, and we had to do it fast. Following the announcement of in-person Davos being deferred at the start of 2022 due to Omicron, the team at the World Economic Forum had just three weeks to successfully re-strategize and deliver a communications campaign for a meeting that shifted from physical to virtual.

If there’s one thing the pandemic has continually taught us over the past two years - it’s how necessary it is to have the ability to pivot your communications plans - fast. An invaluable skill that will be relevant for years to come, post-pandemic and beyond.

A checklist of how the team worked in ensuring a successful virtual edition of Davos this year

Being agile

Agility is all about moving quickly and easily. Planning your communications strategy while knowing things may change last minute gives you the flexibility to adapt your approach seamlessly if necessary.

Expecting that anything can (and potentially will) happen means you don’t waste time being surprised and side-lined by a change in direction – but you can redirect your resources immediately and adapt.

The Forum has many contributors who had set up blogs, opinion editorials, podcast episodes, media pitches, and press conferences surrounding in-person Davos. From the many participants, those who were agile had the best results - they changed up spokespeople, content angles, and timing to still achieve media cut-through during the virtual meeting.

Being organized

Lack of organization will inhibit your ability to move fast. Attention to detail will help you identify and transition the applicable parts of your communications strategy when an unexpected event occurs – in this case, moving from a physical to a virtual meeting.

One example was our approach to pre-event communication. We had a list of factors and key messages to communicate with different audiences at specific touchpoints. Having a clearly labeled, organized matrix of these elements made it easy to see the overall plan at a glance and to easily drop the content that was no longer relevant when transitioning to communicate about a virtual meeting. Without this system, we would have had to re-think our entire communications approach from scratch and start again with priority messaging.

Being energetic

Navigating the stress and pressure of a quick pivot on your communications strategy is easiest if you maintain an energetic attitude. The importance of prioritizing momentum to ensure morale continues, to build a strong sense of team, and keep an attitude of motivation and innovation can’t be understated.

Although the pandemic has caused almost constant changes in plans over two years, for us the secret to not let fatigue set in has been to regroup and be deliberate about having an energetic attitude.

Taking the time to step back and deciding to approach a change or a new circumstance with optimism - not simply letting attitude be automatic - enabled us to stay creative. It also helped to embrace new learnings and enjoy the challenge of pivoting the communications strategy while still delivering results.

The ability to switch up your strategy but still deliver on your intended objectives – be they reach, placement, audience growth, awareness, or media exposure – is an essential skill for any communications professional.

Katie Clift is the corporate affairs manager at the World Economic Forum.

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