Is it possible to describe the summer of 2020 without resorting to cliches? A global pandemic fundamentally changed our world, keeping us a safe distance from others while trying to continue normal activities.

We left the office in mid-March and unexpectedly spent the past five-plus months working from home. We are hoping to return to the office in the near future as we, like all of you, follow the science and concern for safety.

superman pandemic cartoon

At SDI, our summer was both business as usual and business as never before. We still helped our clients get media coverage, enhanced reputations, planned events, and raised awareness. But we also prepped CEOs for media interviews over Zoom and shifted massive live events to virtual formats.

Our biggest annual summer event, the Joint Women’s Leadership Symposium (JWLS) went virtual in August with a collection of 12 webinars through December, providing professional development to military servicewomen and veterans. The virtual series allows the Sea Service Leadership Association (SSLA) to continue to help military women, grow the SSLA network and membership base and drive inclusivity. The first three webinars have been hugely successful averaging 225 live attendees per session, thousands of collective views on-demand and more than 15,000 people reached on social media.

Likewise, Mary Furlong and Associates “What’s Next Longevity Venture Summit” went virtual this summer focusing on leadership and investment in the longevity marketplace. The 3-day event included keynotes featuring c-suite executives, investor, partner, and entrepreneur case studies, three investment competitions and more. Reimaging an advocacy platform for a virtual conference platform was a challenge, but we found ways to offer peer-to-peer interaction, live polling and Q&A, sponsor product showcases and even lead capture. We are working on more virtual events for the fall.

Our work with the military and veteran community continues despite the pandemic. We loved publicizing the Elizabeth Dole Foundation’s “Military Kids Have Talent” program that attracted hundreds of submissions from military kids under the age of 18 and coverage from local and national media outlets. The contestants’ talents included everything from stand-up comedy, to tumbling, ballet, and playing instruments.

The National Museum of the United States Army received a bright spotlight from TV news coverage. And our crack team supporting the Defense Health Agency executed their move to working remotely with military precision. They used every tool in their arsenal to inform our military men and women worldwide on COVID-19. We also found a way to add three new people to our team, bringing them up to speed through remote training sessions.

We created a video telling the story of how client Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve serves employers and their military employees as part of National ESGR Week, an event bookmarked with a presidential proclamation.

Our corporate work was best exemplified by Maximus, which saw a surge in activity in its government work for agencies at the federal, state, and local level helping citizens through COVID-19. We worked closely with Maximus to establish a media strategy and talking points centered on the pandemic response, which led to CEO Bruce Caswell being featured in video interviews, podcasts, and radio interviews discussing the company’s push this summer, while its hiring practices through a pandemic provided a blueprint for others.

Our experience through COVID-19 increased SDI’s own footprint, with VP Tom Davis writing  multiple and very popular articles on crisis communications and fellow VP Sean O’Leary being interviewed on the PR Wars podcast. We’ve launched a new #AskSDI video series to answer the questions we’ve received on our social media channels. Send your questions in!

As summer ends, we honor the 100th anniversary of the passing of the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote. SDI has supported women’s leadership organizations throughout four decades, and the Women in Military Service for America Memorial at Arlington Cemetery for more than 30 years. It wouldn’t exist without the inimitable Brig. Gen. Wilma Vaught (ret), a National Women’s Hall of Fame honoree, who proudly wore her suffragette sash during our recent meeting to begin planning for the 25th anniversary. We have many photos with General Vaught, but none like this one.

Susan Davis and Judy Whittlesey with Brig. Gen. Vaught

We now head into a fall that, apologies for the cliche, will also be unlike any before it. To our clients, our partners, our friends and our prospective clients, we wish you good health.  We’re here for you.

All you need to do is ask.