Company Culture
AI / COVID-19 / Culture Builder

The pandemic is over. Now what?

Peek the internal memo CEO Chris Wink sent to the Technical.ly team, following the formal conclusion to the COVID-19 health emergency. How are you marking the end?

Most of the Technical.ly team at our annual Signature Event during Philly Tech Week. (Photo by Victoria Wilcox/Torian Studios)

Written by Technically Media CEO Chris Wink, Technical.ly’s Culture Builder newsletter features tips on growing powerful teams and dynamic workplaces. Below is the latest edition we published. Sign up to get the next one.

A beginning suggests an end. Last month, the US federal government revoked the COVID-19 health emergency — formally ending the pandemic as we know it.

The first all-team email I sent to my Technical.ly team to address COVID-19 was on Friday, March 6. 2020. We postponed career fairs scheduled for DC and Delaware. By early April, we canceled what would have been the 10th annual Philly Tech Week — the largest and longest planning cycle we had ever taken on. That’s why it felt so personal that the same week the health emergency was lifted, we produced our first entirely in-person event series in four years.

That makes the 13th annual Philly Tech Week both the last event series we planned in a pandemic, and the first we produced outside of it. Our Technical.ly Builders Conference, in particular, felt like the start of something new.

I’ve informally polled friends and coworkers: Did the formal end of the pandemic mean something to you? I’d call the response split. Vaccinations and war-weariness had long brought many back into their new normal. Others, like myself, can’t ignore the significance. Nobody is saying COVID-19 will go away. It won’t. It will transition from globe-spanning threat to seasonal and regional nuisance. This pandemic will be marked as early 2020 to spring 2023 — close to three and a half years (the declarations of health emergency and national emergency loosely correspond).

As a person and a leader, you’ll benefit from making sense of this all. Neither you nor your company are unchanged. I suggest you reflect on that. The pandemic’s formal end is an opportunity. Ask yourself: Now what? To answer that myself, years after my first COVID-19 message, I sent my team what might be my last about this strain.

Remember that we didn’t sit still between March 2020 and May 2023. Beset by disruption, we went through a series of all-team exercises that resulted in our first-ever strategic vision. We’ve focused our services, launched a redesign of our website and retooled our event strategy. We went fully remote — though we have a year left on our office lease. We engaged experts, coaches and consultants to transform our organization — from an events business with local news sites to a news org with a community of technologists and entrepreneurs whom we connect with our clients. In doing so, we changed our approach and our team. Journalism is a strategy we use to grow and engage a community, and we build products and services to help develop high-value connections.

More change is coming. Macroeconomic signals remain shaky. Though I am confident about our new vision, we have a rocky path to get there. Reader habits shifted, and our priorities must adapt. I believe generative AI really is a true paradigm shift — that isn’t something I said in 15 years about 3D printers, blockchain, NFTs or any other interesting technology we’ve dutifully followed.

I can’t convey enough just how much our organization has changed. Technical.ly earned $1 million in events revenue in 2019, and closer to $100,000 in 2022. That is a devastating disruption that we have executed as effectively as I could imagine anyone doing. We have to reintroduce ourselves to our community.

You ask again: So now what?

The pandemic is over, even if COVID-19 may outlast us all. On the other side, we are building a news organization with a community of high-quality direct and trusting relationships (first-party data in the B2B jargon) whom we inform, engage and connect. Our clients seek our community and expertise — employer brand marketing, brand-building storytelling and research to guide them. We host a big annual reader conference, and other events and convenings that support those goals.

Each organization, big and small, is defining what it is in the post-pandemic era. Say it. For the Technical.ly team, help us more effectively and repeatably grow and engage our community, and we’ll do important work and thrive. What about you?

Series: Builders

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