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  • Patricia MacInnis

What can we learn from crows about adapting, surviving and thriving?

Updated: May 7


To say the recent weeks of lockdown and physical distancing have been challenging is perhaps the understatement of the year. In the COVID-19 era, even simple tasks like grocery shopping come with tough new questions: Should I wear a mask while in public? What time is best to shop and avoid large groups of people? How much disinfecting is enough?

Sheltering in place has brought a flurry of emotions to the surface but none more prominent than fear. For family members and friends who are frontline healthcare workers putting themselves at risk. For clients who have had to lay off staff or whose businesses have ground to a halt. And fear for what our future will look like once we’ve emerged from the abyss.

Nothing is business as usual

As one week rolled into the next, the social and economic impacts bought on by this relentless pandemic took a sharp turn from the macro to the micro. I started to wonder if this business I had only just launched would be able to weather the storm. Things began with a bang in January, but by the end of March, many of the clients who were planning to launch new initiatives told us they would have to hit the pause button until there was more certainty in the world.

I understand that reaction. When your revenue stream is unreliable, it doesn’t seem logical to start a content marketing program of blogposts, newsletters, infographics or eBooks. After all, marketing is often mistakenly viewed as a “nice to have” rather than a “need to have.” In fact, marketing is a vital component of a strategic business development plan.

One thing that has emerged loud and clear during this lockdown is that your clients need answers to troubling questions. Parents are asking for guidance on how to deal with a former spouse who is no longer paying child support, while employees are wondering if they can legally refuse to work in unsafe environments. Meanwhile, businesses are struggling to navigate the various government relief programs. Those who have been injured in accidents are unable to access the essential rehabilitation services they need to recover.

Everyone has a different reaction when crisis ignites our fight or flight instincts. I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently and have come up with a classification system that borrows from the animal kingdom: we are either turtles, leopards or crows.

Turtles retreat and wait for the threat to pass

Turtles move slowly and can be quick to frighten when they feel threatened, retracting their head, legs and tail into their shells and waiting for the danger to pass.

I understand the urge to pull back right now. People are worried about their families, businesses, employees and communities. It can be overwhelming. While some clients have put their content marketing programs on hold, we have also signed new clients who are determined to keep the conversation alive with clients through informative and helpful blog posts, social media and news updates.

Lawyers and legal suppliers who are not communicating regularly with clients during the pandemic are doing their clients and themselves a disservice. How you communicate today will have an impact on the strength of your business or practice going forward. In a recent column for Forbes, Bianca Miller-Cole says during a crisis, it’s easy to just sit back and do nothing, but much better to think of what you can do or say to help your clients. Ask yourself what you can assist with, what your clients need, can you implement any initiatives to help them bounce back, says Miller-Cole, a personal branding expert.

Leopards pounce when opportunity knocks

Leopards are solitary and opportunistic hunters, stalking their targets over a distance of a few hundred metres and ending them with an explosive bounce and bite to the prey’s neck.

Over the past month or so, your inbox has probably been flooded with emails from leopard-like companies you once purchased goods or services from that are now offering to sell you something you don’t need “during these unprecedented times.” I have unsubscribed to many, especially those that seem tone-deaf to what’s going on in the world.

In the context of legal marketing during the COVID-19 crisis, your content strategy should be addressing clients’ needs, rather than pushing a pre-pandemic agenda, writes Kevin Vermeulen.

“Now, your firm’s content marketing should focus on exhibiting your integrity through genuine attempts to help your clients and future clients, otherwise you risk coming off as irrelevant or tone-deaf,” he says.

Crows adapt to their changing environment

Crows are intelligent problem solvers that share some of the same basic intelligence traits as primates in terms of their ability to adapt and change in the face of new information and experience.

Personally, I love crows. When they caw at me from their perch, I feel I’ve made a connection with another sentient being, which admittedly might be madness. I watched a PBS documentary years ago and was amazed to learn that crows memorize garbage truck routes for meal planning and drop nuts in the road and wait for passing cars to crack them open. They are also very social creatures; when they’re in distress, other unrelated crows will come to their rescue. Crows, in other words, are community-minded.


Navigating our new and ever-shifting normal isn’t easy. Every day brings a different challenge or a difficult decision. It’s important to remind yourself that now, perhaps more than ever, information is empowering and essential. You have it, and your clients and community need it.


For more information or help with your content, contact us today. We have a team of writers and editors who specialize in creating high-impact legal and business content.


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