Looking forward: Hindsight is 20/20.

In setting my 2020 resolutions,

I shared that “nothing creates a genuine opportunity to evaluate, challenge and optimize our goals, both personal and professional, like a fresh new decade.” Then I added: “In these times of change, we must get on and stay on our feet, ever ready to capitalize on opportunities.”

Such optimism. And who knew how much change 2020 would bring. Throughout last year, I’ve slept, laughed, cried, stress ate, worked out and tried to process a lot of feelings. And feelings are OK — as leaders, they remind us how authenticity and vulnerability can serve as strengths.

So rather than setting new resolutions this year, I decided to grade my 2020 resolutions while my crystal ball for 2021 is still in the repair shop.  My resolutions in 2020 served as a challenge to marketers and myself, as a marketer of a service brand, to think about the start of a new decade differently. In grading the effectiveness at the end of 2020, these are my personal evaluations.

Resolution No. 1: Invest in “creative” (and be creative).

Despite the pandemic, we doubled down on creative hires at BR in 2020. The difference was immediate and profound. We wowed clients, powerfully launched brands and made ourselves proud in the process. And yes, we won awards too. The broader agency grew to acknowledge that “creative” is not just a function. It’s a business-critical part of everyone’s job. Examples of creativity that inspired me included the IT creativity that kept us connected at warp speed even while scattered across the country. HR and Learning & Development creativity that kept us sane, safe, always learning and healthy. Staff creativity as they rallied around a comprehensive Diversity & Inclusion effort. Everyone plays a role when it comes to creativity. A.

Resolution No. 2: Build many networks (or at least invest in a few).

OK, I might have been too aggressive in my quest to build many networks. But network connections have grown even more important in this new non-face-to-face world. Still, how many is the right number? That relies on how deeply you can commit. For our BR marketing team, we committed to two partnerships this year — Chicagoland Food & Beverage Network and USFRA’s Honor the Harvest. These were both great partners to prove our commitment, value and dedication to the food production system at the core of our business. They allowed us to convene and collaborate with others who share our values. I can’t wait to continue expanding our network in 2021. B, mostly due to losing momentum in shifting networking to digital.

Resolution No. 3: Monitor culture closely (and be prepared to act).

This might be my most understated but spot-on resolution of all. Though I called them out last year, the World Cup and the Summer Olympics were the last things on our minds as we grappled with a pandemic, racial protests and a great political divide. Beyond awareness, we had to be prepared with a point of view and a plan to pivot at all times. We had to determine when to join conversations and when to turn our channels dark, and that was a tremendous strain. How do you separate your personal and professional feelings? How do you rally your teams to keep motivation high? I’m so proud of how BR juggled everything last year. While we are still largely WFH, we are connected and productive. We accelerated a robust, staff-led Diversity & Inclusion effort and made a public commitment we are living up to. We listened to each other, supported each other and learned a lot. A+, since “Action” was our middle name in 2020.

Resolution No. 4: Embrace data’s power (always).

In times of great change, it’s tempting to focus on intuition or “how we feel” — but in reality, we need to balance that with data to be more effective and informed. BR’s The Intel Distillery provided a great expression of that data/intuition balance that we use in marketing our own brand. While it runs on data and is built on databases, the group is powered by human intelligence. When we marry data facts with human intelligence, we get insights that help us optimize work every day. We can identify trends and calibrate noise in the marketplace. This year, The Intel Distillery held a series of weekly webinars, and that vetting and validating of our data with market influencers made our POV stronger and more relevant to our prospective clients.  B. Given the continuous evolution and advances in this sector, we will always have more work to do. I am not sure an A will ever be possible unless we start grading ourselves on a curve.

Resolution No. 5: Recognize audio’s resurgence (or, dare I say, takeover!).

Yes, please, more audio. Our nation is hooked on podcasts, perspectives and points of view. We also are multitaskers, and audio meets us wherever we are. At BR, we’ve done a great job exploring this medium this year. From creating and hosting our own internal podcast to creating award-winning client content, we’ve learned a lot. We understand the power of the host, the importance of the narrative and the impact of sound effects. Also, we recognize how you must commit to promotion so your content can find its audience. B, due to insufficient promotion budgets.

As for any 2021 predictions, I think I’ll sit this one out, at least for the moment.

I need to continue to reflect and evaluate, then hopefully I’ll be ready with more thoughts soon. How about you? Let me know what you think. I’m working to keep focused on listening and learning, which isn’t a prediction, but definitely a resolution for the year.

About the Author

A member of the Bader Rutter Executive Leadership Team, David Jordan leads the BR Business Consultancy Group. His eclectic group includes MBAs, a former CMO from an entrepreneurial investment group, a veterinarian and the former commercial operations leader for a multi-billion-dollar business unit of a Fortune 500 company. The BR Business Consultancy Group consults with both inline and specialty clients ranging from Fortune 500 companies to innovative startups in food & beverage, agribusiness and pet care.