• Karl Schmieder

Why Your Story Matters Now More Than Ever

Updated: Mar 30, 2020

Everything is different. A month ago, I was helping plan an April 30th consumer biotechnology conference. Two weeks ago, my co-organizers and I were discussing whether or not we should cancel the conference because of COVID19 news. Seven days ago, the pandemic was declared. New York City asked us to stay home. The U.S. declared a national emergency.

The pandemic has had an immediate impact on everything. Companies have sent their employees to work at home. Retail stores are closing. Supermarket shelves have been emptied. The ripple effect of the COVID-19 pandemic will have a major impact on the entire economy.

At the same time, small and agile companies have stepped up. People are volunteering. Companies are donating lab space and computing power. Multiple accelerators to solve the problems were started in record time.The best of humanity is on display. And biotech and synthetic biology are companies stepping up to the task.

No matter how this plays out, it will not be business as usual for anyone.

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As the CEO of a small company, I know I'll have to adapt and change. I’ve done this before and believe my experiences will be useful to you.

I started messagingLAB after the dotcom crash. It wasn’t easy. I had a baby at home. I was a freelance writer, offered naming and branding services. It took almost a year to land my first client. That client grew into a regular gig at Yahoo! It eventually led to an offer to work in-house at an agency which I took because I didn’t think I knew what I was doing.

messagingLAB 2.0 emerged from the 2008 financial crisis and two digital health startups that crashed and burned. At the time, I had been speaking to potential partners. One became a client. And that was the basis of the work we do today. I had three young children at the time. It was stressful but I prioritized their well-being over everything else and I have fond memories of the time we shared together.

Right now, at the start of this pandemic, things feel different. I am talking to people and can tell they are concerned. Many are afraid.

My lesson to you: Take care of your family. Talk to your employees, customers, potential customers and change strategy as needed to meet the new normal.

You might find yourself in crisis mode.

You will need a crisis strategy. You need a crisis story.

And I totally get this is not totally clear and will be a moving target for a while.

If you're an established company, that means engaging your employees. Reassure them. It means engaging your community and customers. Explain how you plan to make it through this.

If you’re a startup, you may need to pivot, making your company, your work relevant to this crisis.

Find the opportunities to engage and reassure. Be honest and to tell a real story. The story you tell matters.

This is a time when clear, effective communication is among the most important thing you can do.

I'm not telling you that to sell our services. I'm telling you because it is reality. If you're not sure how to proceed email or call me, I'll help you brainstorm at no charge.

The story you tell about your immediate future and its impact on decision making matters.

The story you tell has the power to accelerate the economic fallout or the expansion that will inevitably follow because stories become self-fulfilling.


Be compassionate.

And take great care of yourself. You and your immune system needs it. Do what you can to lower your stress levels – exercise, sleep enough, reduce your alcohol intact, eat healthy, and surround yourself with people who will support you.

I do believe we will science the hell out of this pandemic. 150 million to 200 million scientists, physicians and technologists around the world are working to solve this crisis.

Finally, if you're a biotech company, you'd be wise to read IndieBio's letter to its founders. It is a reminder that this is biotechnology’s time. "This pandemic will amplify the need for your existence... Be ready for the market to look for your products as a solution." I'd add, while the market is going to be looking for things that are cheaper and high value, they are also going to be looking for solutions to problems. And biotech offers solutions to many many problems.