It’s time for Conscious Brands to step up as business leaders in our communities – but how?
How can you maintain and strengthen your brand in times like these, so once the crisis subsides you come out the other side of it stronger?
How can you act consciously?
And how can you innovate and pivot your services to help your business weather the storm?
Leaders need to mobilise their people now more than ever to maintain brand trust, innovate and create opportunities for business sustainability.
COVID-19 has achieved what no other crisis in recent memory has managed to accomplish… it’s put the world, and life as we know it, on pause. As each country implements measures to contain the spread of this virus, the impact of closures, cancellations and restrictions are being felt by everyone.
For businesses, whether they’re B2B or B2C, anxiety is apparent in questions we’re hearing about continuing operations and the struggle many brands are having in communicating with their people and customers. The changing environment we find ourselves in brings new challenges and opportunities for businesses and brands to be even more relevant and useful for customers.
To support our clients, businesses and brands in this critical time, we wanted to put together a few thoughts that will hopefully help. Every business will need communication, collaboration and ingenuity to move through this. We’re all in this together.
LEAD WITH YOUR VALUES
In a time of crisis, communicating and leading with your values is imperative. After all is said and done, people will remember how you responded, or, in some cases didn’t respond. Now’s the time to step up and show that your values aren’t just words on a wall. As the months go by, hopefully, we’ll start to see more examples of companies remembering their values – it’s time for conscious brands to lead the way.
Look after your people first
People need to feel secure, safe and valued before they can create headspace for anything else. Their wellbeing needs to come first. Create a sustainable plan (one you could function within for potentially the next 6 months or more) for your business. Depending on the type of work you do, this could include:
- Remote work where applicable, or rotating staff to work from home so there are less people in the office
- Implementing social distancing where possible – moving desks, reducing tables
- Declining cash transactions
- Providing employees with disinfectant and cleaning products to regularly clean workspaces
- Putting up reminder signage for washing hands and cleaning workspaces
- Create a plan internally for leave allowances for staff beyond their standard entitlements
- Speak to staff about how they’re coping, what’s important to them and their needs moving forward – family needs, mental health, etc. Ensure those needs are met wherever possible
Take control and show initiative in protecting your people. Once the inside is taken care of, you can confidently start looking outward.
Communicate and be transparent
Once you’ve implemented all the necessary changes, communicate regularly with your employees and customers. Let your customers know via email and social media, some you’ll need to call directly – make time for conversations. Naturally, you’ll tell them about changes that affect them, but also ask them what you can do to better support them through this time. Let them know that their wellbeing, and your employee’s wellbeing, is your first priority. This will speak volumes about your values and this transparency about your own practices could show other businesses how they can put people first even when the path is difficult, not just when it’s easy.
It’s important that you review any planned advertising, social and marketing messages to be appropriate to what your customers are facing right now. Marketing and promoting as if everything is normal will not resonate or be useful right now and will diminish brand trust. Show you understand your customer and their current environment.
Don’t wait to reinforce your values through your actions. You’ve made plans and new processes, now implement them and be strict about enforcing them. What you do is just as important as what you say and how you say it.
BE AGILE AND RESPONSIVE
To carry on during this pandemic does not mean get back to business as usual – that’s not an option right now. It also doesn’t mean ramp up new promotions or sales, because no amount of sales-driven marketing or tactics can make someone who is facing uncertainty convert. It’s not an effective use of time or resources.
What it means for a brand or company to carry on at this time is that there is still work you need to do – work that prioritises your clients or customers, that supports and provides a sense of normalcy (and more importantly, security) for your people and keeps a sense of momentum in a world that feels like it has stopped turning.
Use this as an opportunity to take a step back from the constant hustle of targets and sales, and instead reflect on how you can strengthen your brand trust and innovate business practices to stay ahead.
Reflect on what your customers need
Stay close to your customers, talk to them, think about the context in which they now need to live and work and explore new ways to genuinely help. Consider:
- What has changed for your customer and how can you make this change easier for them?
- What do you provide that they still need from you right now?
- What will they need from you once this crisis is over?
- Are there actions you can take or assets you can produce that will support customers/clients to get back on their feet later? Or even help them keep the lights on now?
Reflect on what the world needs
We all need to band together and contribute where we can for the good of everyone. Every business has expertise that can be used and redirected towards areas that will have a positive impact during this pandemic. Some companies are restructuring their factories to help make more sanitiser, others are delivering food to vulnerable areas, supermarkets have created a dedicated hour for elderly customers to shop for necessities. What can your business do to contribute?
Think outside the box
How can you pivot to meet new needs in this new environment? Seize this moment to innovate and optimise your services and practices in alignment with your brand purpose and values
- Could your business operate online?
- Review the delivery of services/products
- Assess new modes of delivery and communication
- Audit your current services for improvements
- Repackage or restructure offerings
- Make sure all of your digital channels are up to date and people can find you online – review, optimise and stay visible
- Think of formats that are relevant in the new context: virtual events, video, webinars, podcasts, interactive content and anything else online
With things changing so quickly, now’s not the time to spend weeks perfecting a plan. Do what you need to do to get the new service out there, test and refine. With so many unknowns it’s impossible to know if something is going to work until you try it – so take an agile approach and improve along the way if an idea gains traction.
- Pull team members together to brainstorm
- Commit resources to testing and refining new service offerings and ideas
- Get customer feedback
- Be prepared to pivot and improve quickly
- Communicate with your customers and build awareness around your new service/offerings
- Closely monitor and optimise along the way
MAINTAIN A LONG-TERM MINDSET
A conscious approach means not getting caught up in short–term panic marketing and instead focus on the bigger picture and long-term brand building. Letting your brand wane or vanish for an extended period of time and then trying to reignite it later will be much harder than maintaining it through the crisis.
Keep your purpose & vision in mind
It can be hard to keep your eyes on the horizon when there’s so much uncertainty and change happening. But the more you can focus on the bigger picture, it will become clearer which shifts and initiatives will support your business through the crisis now and also give you an edge towards your vision once things settle down.
Show brand leadership
Act early, walk the talk, serve your people and community, communicate, share your expertise and knowledge that will help people, stay visible, calm and confident. Your brand can actually be reinforced through crisis rather than fading into the background.
Think about building your content
Staying in touch with your customers will require an emphasis towards a digital approach for the foreseeable future. Digital is one channel that remains undisrupted, and content marketing is an effective way to provide support, stay in touch with your customer and build your brand. Getting the right content marketing strategies in place can be really valuable for your business in creating an experience for people in the absence of traditional face-to-face channels.
Together we can navigate this moment in time positively by innovating how we operate, how we value each other and how we choose to live and work in a world that is demanding we do better.
If you need any help with communication, collaboration or innovation during the current COVID-19 situation, internally or externally, we‘re just a phone call away. To support, we’re offering free collaboration sessions to all of our clients – get in touch if you need some help.