Leadership in a Time of Uncertainty

Every day leaders assess challenges, identify new opportunities, and make decisions with the best information available to benefit stakeholders. That process became far more difficult with 2020’s unprecedented, uncharted, and seismic events. It is difficult to imagine the scale of the impact in the months and years ahead but for now, we are dealing with the disruption and tragedy as best we can.

It is remarkable to see how people quickly pivoted to working, learning, and collaborating at a distance. In many ways, the global research community has been adapting to large-scale digital disruption for more than a decade. That work, across our community, has helped to make possible a medical and scientific response unlike any other in history. We can certainly find reason for hope when the world is looking to scientists for leadership and innovation: Humanity can and will overcome COVID-19 through global collaboration among researchers, practitioners, and leaders, boosted by the rapidly evolving capabilities of technology.

For everyone, it’s difficult to say when we will again feel safe – and comfortable – bringing people together again in our homes, workplaces, classrooms, and conferences. There isn’t a clear path forward for individuals, organizations, or institutions, and we don’t know when and where the pandemic’s trajectory will end. The economic reverberations are immense and higher education institutions and membership associations have already been hit hard.

Supporting sustainable scholarship and shared objectives for accessibility, transparency, reliability, and agility while maintaining the scholarly record will be more challenging – that is clear. What lies ahead for academic conferences, and university classes, labs, and libraries? The only certainty is uncertainty. Fear and necessity may take us down the road of austerity. Yet there are other directions we can take, as the two characters that make up the Japanese word for crisis imply.

At TBI Communications, we are helping resilient organizations navigate through this year’s landscape of dangers and opportunities by listening to their employees, customers, members, councils, committees, authors, and editorial boards. We are helping leaders to connect with their stakeholders to understand their experiences and insights, inform pressing decisions, and consider the future in new time horizons.


Client 1: Scientific Association

The society had to cancel their North American May meeting. At the same time they needed to begin promoting their global quadrennial meeting in October. Held jointly with two international societies, the planned location has a two-week quarantine for visitors. Despite the challenges, promotion of the Fall meeting was effective. Abstract submissions are on track and they are adapting their communications to convey that the meeting format may change, but they will find ways to bring the community together.

We helped them take the pulse of the community. We wanted to learn how they were adapting to changes in teaching and research. We conducted market research interviews with several members including students and long-time members.  The association’s leaders are learning first-hand how members are adapting and what they seek from their “professional home.”

We are turning these interviews into stories that give voice to shared challenges, to showcase the inspiring ways members are adapting, staying connected, helping others with professional development, and advancing their research (including front-line COVID-19-related projects).

The ECS Community Adapts and Advances: Elizabeth Biddinger on Being Sensitive to our Academic Community’s Needs

The Battery Community Connects in New Ways: Online Battery Symposium Inspires Action


Client 2: International NGO

The crisis communications team reached out to us early in March. They are facing dramatically increased workloads across their global organization and wanted to assess the impact on their workforce. TBI helped them create their first Employee Pulse Survey, turning around a question bank the same morning the organization reached out to us. Within days, the crisis communications team learned that work-life balance was the top concern. By listening, the communications team and leadership team were able to prioritize their communications and demonstrate a culture of concern for those on the front lines in their responses.


TBI is available to help your organization listen and understand with market research, strategy and communications services. We can help you to:

  • Quickly plan a market research program to understand your stakeholder’s priorities, to learn about the impact on your publication pipeline and event planning
  • Develop communication strategies that connect your community by bridging distances and responding to needs
  • Develop responsive and valued programs, services, and products

All TBI services are customized to address our clients’ specifications, budgets and timeframes.

We have a quick and affordable way to take the pulse of your community.

If you want to change uncertainty into risk management, please contact anne.stone@tbicommunications.com (North America) or lynne.miller@tbicommunications.com (UK, Europe, Asia Pacific)