A version of this post originally appeared in the September 24, 2020 issue with the email subject line "Planning for 2021 like you know change is necessary" and a review of interactive content software ExCo.

No matter where you work or what you do, if you’re here, you’re probably aware, at least a little bit: to fix systemic racism, to remedy climate change, to maintain our own sanity, to give our descendants a better future, we must fundamentally change the way we work.

Since the latter half of the twentieth century, businesses have engaged in some form of what is called Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), subsidizing volunteer time or making marginally more ethical choices considering the environment. It’s likely clear to most of you that most CSR initiatives are either greenwashing or white saviorism, doing little to offset the impact on the environment, systemic racism or global inequality.

Radical changes to the way most companies operate, even those considered disruptors, are highly unlikely. BP isn’t going to stop drilling; Cargill isn’t solve world hunger by opening slightly more functional meat processing plants; UnitedHealth isn’t going to stop overcharging for and denying treatment of necessary healthcare. It’s overwhelming and disheartening and can make nihilism look really appealing.

Some days it’s more comfortable to believe in nothing, that we’re powerless. But our conversational acumen and digital awareness makes it easier for those in content marketing and communications to start the conversation.

Yes, you can try to converse with your racist relatives and make a plan to vote. But we all have the power to introduce change at our workplaces and with our clients, however gradual. There are better thought leaders than I who can speak to diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, which are crucial to any company’s transformation.

But what we can change are the questionable habits and assumptions from 20th century mass media audience growth and 21st century rapid scale tech adoption that keep us chasing our tails at our jobs.

At the intersection of content, media and technology, we’re in a unique position to ensure facts are correct, to maintain the complexity of nuanced stories, to prioritize long-term brand trust over short-term growth spurts, to behave responsibly with our audience’s data, and to build a more sustainable digital information economy.

If you want to build change into your 2021 planning, you should come equipped with high-quality data and conversation starters. Hopefully the following should help you start more meaningful conversations in your work, no matter where you are in your career.

1. In 2020, your audience changed. Do the research that indicates how and why they did.

We’re in the middle of a massive economic downturn and period of social change, but that can’t be the sole cause of every single decision a brand makes. “Well, people bought fewer widgets because of COVID” isn’t really a statement that holds much water in a report this year.

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