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Soledad O’Brien: Give People a Chance to Lead in a Crisis

Leading through change

This conversation with Soledad is part of our Leading Through Change content initiative, aiming to inspire and help during this time of uncertainty.

In times of unprecedented crisis, like the one we are living in, there are opportunities for true leaders to rise to the occasion.

That was one of my main takeaways from a conversation earlier today with Soledad O’Brien, the award-winning journalist who’s chronicled more than her fair share of seismic global events over the course of her career.

“Every disaster I’ve covered — the tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, Haiti earthquake — these are opportunities where I’ve seen leaders emerge,” she told me. "In a crisis … how do you support those people who are stressed … and how do you give people a chance to lead?"

This morning’s conversation with Soledad is part of our Leading Through Change content initiative, aiming to inspire and help during this time of uncertainty. I believe that, for the content marketing community, it’s important to be hyper-sensitive now, to what people are going through. If you don’t have something relevant and helpful to say, consider taking a step back.

That said, the rules for content creators are radically changing in this new homebound economy. As CEO of Soledad O’Brien Productions, she sees opportunity for her 11-person company to be creative, with remote video interviews at the forefront.

“How do we think of shooting things that don’t require you to be next to somebody?” she said. “People can shoot themselves now and the quality of video is great — that kind of opens up a lot of new pathways.

That idea — creativity borne out of necessity — was also something I discussed today with Sheryl Crow, the nine-time Grammy Award-winner who joined us from her home studio.

“When this whole thing started happening … we made three lists. We made a list of things I have to do, things I want to do — like that I’ve never done — and ways to give back,” Sheryl said. "I’ve always believed boredom is the greatest proponent for creativity. Now [my kids] are literally using boredom to figure out ways to create worlds around them."

These are just a few of the many subjects we touched on in today’s discussion: from managing today’s deluge of news to supporting the small businesses that need us most to a little forecasting around where Soledad thinks things will land once this pandemic is over. I encourage you to watch the videos if any of this resonates. (Spoiler: Sheryl talks about the baby chicks her sons adopted so they can give eggs away to their neighbors in the midst of an egg shortage.)

Watch the complete interview with Soledad O’Brien and special performance by Sheryl Crow:

In this time of crisis, many of us are thinking about how to uplift those who need it most. That’s why we also asked those who are fortunate enough to be in a position to help to support Jose Andres’ World Central Kitchen, whose mission is to mobilize local chefs and communities to provide first responder disaster relief in the form of hot, nutritious meals. If you can, please make a donation and support their efforts.

Our Leading Through Change series provides thought leadership, tips, and resources to help business leaders manage through crisis. Check out some of our most recent articles:

Update: April 17, 2020: This post was updated to more properly contextualize quotes from Soledad O’Brien.

Stephanie Buscemi

Stephanie formerly led Salesforce marketing as EVP and CMO, leaving the position in January 2021. She was listed on Business Insider's 25 Most Innovative CMOs in the world in 2020, which recognizes CMOs and top marketing executives who are rising to the occasion; pioneering new ways of melding data and marketing; building in-house capabilities; creatively reaching consumers; finding new ways to cut costs, and turning traditional advertising on its head.

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