How To Protect, Leverage, And Grow Your Brand During Times Of Crisis
We’re in new territory and there’s absolutely no denying it anymore. So, what now? How do you look down the road—into say, Q3—when anything seems possible tomorrow? As we manage our new lifestyles on lock down, we must manage our companies and brands in parallel. (You might be managing your child’s education as well!) Certainly much of the focus will be on mitigating the damage, but we also need to look and plan for an ever-changing future. From our experience managing brands through other historical downturns, here are some ideas for how to navigate the ship in choppy and unknown waters.
Get out ahead of it and communicate
A new normal is setting in. The past three weeks have catapulted businesses into an avalanche of communications, actions, and reactions. What started as, “we’re monitoring the situation” quickly slid into, “we’re scaling back, we’re closing down, and we’re praying that the old normal will return as fast as possible.” Businesses are now divided between those that are essential to the needs of humans and those that are not.
While we’re already seeing rallies of local support and community love for SMBs, the future is still very much unknown for almost everyone. Whether small, medium, or large enough to have a moat and really rainy day funds, doing what you can to get out ahead of this pandemic and crisis will have long and lasting impacts. Doing everything the CDC recommends to keep your people safe should be an obvious fact of life now, but check out this scenario planning article for more advice on managing the corporate process with employees.
As a company, communicate regularly with your employees—they need to feel valued and supported, especially if the company has tough choices to make in terms of layoffs, or worse. As a brand, communicate to your customers and every other audience that is critical to your mission. Figure out ways, no matter how small, to boost morale, reduce stress, and keep an optimistic outlook at the end of the day. Find some specific communication Do’s and Don’ts here.
Now’s the time to live your core values
It’s painful and obvious to see the players that are price gouging or otherwise taking advantage of the dire situation in order to profit. They look especially bad and their brand karma will catch up. But for all the rest of us, this is a time to really rise into our best selves and make sure those core values aren’t just an empty gesture or poster over the now empty water cooler.
Authenticity, integrity, and transparency are not only the noble and morally right stances to take in crisis, but those who show up like that are the most likely to be trusted and remembered. And even though the belts are tightening and bottom lines are hurting, any act of generosity counts more than ever. What can you give away to those who need it most? Maybe cash or supplies, maybe knowledge share. If there’s nothing tangible to give away, how can you express gratitude and empathy for your team, customers, and stakeholders?
Trip.com is sending a million surgical mask supplies to Japan, Korea, Canada and France, for starters. Poetically, and in a lovely brand move, they put this quote on the outside of their containers: “Many ways, to join one journey. Many origins, to reach one destiny. Many friends, to form one family. Many endeavours, to win one victory.” Sending the masks is great on its own—and worthy of media attention—but it’s the message that accompanies the gift that takes it to another level of humanity, making Trip.com a memorable and loveable hero.
You don’t have to donate a million masks but you do have to remain relevant—and alive. Business as usual could be weeks or months away, if not longer. Now’s the time to get inventive and let your core values speak through the actions you take in the coming months.
Think really out of the box
You know the adage, adversity is the mother of creativity. The primary driving force of most new inventions is need. And the world is in great need right now. Whether it’s grassroot, collaborative campaigns, or unique and useful content, now is the time to think like a trail blazer.
The restaurant industry is being hit particularly hard and have come up with a few creative solutions to the cash flow and liquidity problems that they face. One of those solutions is dining bonds. Local hospitality publicists, consultants, and other folks in the industry have banded together to create supportrestaurants.org, a site where restaurants can register to issue their patrons “bonds,” which are basically gift certificates purchased now at a discounted price that can be redeemed in the future at a higher face value.
What unique, valuable knowledge do you have that can be shared in an effort to support your customers, team, vendors, partners, or the world at large? Who can you partner and collaborate with? (This site itself started as a collaboration between two agencies, Sutherlandgold and Moonshot after realizing that many companies, beyond our clients, were asking the same questions.)
It’s sure to be a wild ride but fate seems to favor the creative ones. Make sure your brand feels alive, relevant, and durable. Stay active on social. Send emails or newsletters. Create new campaigns, alliances, and collaborations. Think local and grassroots. Figure out ways to build community when community is most needed. These are all ways that you can help the world through this time while creating a strong brand story and lasting impression during times of great disruption and need.
Lauren Lee Anderson is the founder of Moonshot, a story, strategy and design shop turning big missions into powerful brands. Editorial perspectives on storytelling, disruption, and changing the narrative.