Sometimes things can happen quite unexpectedly to a business. Sometimes it’s internal, and sometimes it’s external. But nothing could quite prepare any business for the surreal impacts of COVID-19 on our economy and society at such a global scale.
Only the earthquakes we experienced in Canterbury can even start to compare from a localised point of view. All the businesses and people in the region were affected. At the time we know we could either bury our heads in the sand and hope for the best, or take positive steps to secure our position as a business and a brand going forward. For the latter, we had to step out of our comfort zones, review our business, our strategy and even our core offering if we had to, in order to survive, or even thrive in the world that awaited us on the other side.
We know this is tough, and unlike anything we have ever faced. It’s important to navigate this crisis well, so your brand is top of mind and seen in a positive light later. We also know it is going to take time, but we are helping our clients get through this the best way we know how. Here is some of the advice we have been giving our clients, and we hope it helps you in some way to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Write a communications plan
These are times we have never experienced before, so we can’t just stick to our old strategies, we have to rewrite the book.
People will remember the brands who use this time well, who communicate, who innovate, who listen to, and truly care about their customers' needs. So put your customer at the centre of your communication plan. Put it down on paper, and then follow it. It doesn’t need to be long, just a one pager with 4 week, 8 week, and 6 month milestones, and articulate the messaging and mediums you will use to communicate with your customers during each of those time periods.
The messaging will need to change at every stage, but having a plan and following it (and adapting with it), is critical to make sure you are keeping your customers feeling informed and loved. Remember all these channels can be used to communicate your messaging:
Talk to your customers
Now, more than ever, it is critical to keep your customers informed of what is going on with your business.
Communicate at each stage, let them know whats going on now and what might change at different stages of the alert system set by the Government. Use your social channels, email marketing or website to give reassurance to your customers that you are functioning and delivering your product or services as seamlessly as possible. Or if you aren’t able to keep your business running at this time, just tell them that, but create meaningful content that educates, inspires or entertains, and leaves you top of mind after this is all over.
Reassure them you are managing the process within your business and can help them get through it too. They will feel comfort in the fact you are thinking of them, and creating opportunities for both yourself and for them as things develop.
Your advertising shouldn’t stop, just think about what you are advertising and the messages you are telling your audience. Your strategy may need to change (and more than once) to ensure you are engaging in the right way. Should you move from a sales message to a reassurance message? Do you need to communicate more on your social platforms during this time? Can you give people tips for how to use your products through this time if they have access to them? Otherwise just continue to give them updates on your business, and your team, so they always know what’s going on, or how you can help.
Tell them what you are changing and how they can contact you if that has changed.
Hold out your hand and let them know you are thinking of them, and pick up the phone. Personal connection is such a huge part of getting through this.
Be remembered as a ‘good’ brand
We hope that during times like these, the best in human nature comes out. All businesses have to make money to prosper and survive, but there are ways you can communicate to make sure people know you are a good citizen, and your brand goes above just sales and profit.
What can you do for others? Is there anything your business can offer that won’t heavily impact your bottom line, but that will help the wider economy (or just your own customers) to get through this.
The way you deal with this could define you as a brand. Whether it be free online exercise, special shopping hours for pensioners, or donations of food to charity, many brands are trying hard to be do their bit for the wider community.
At the very least we can spread a little cheer by sharing a positive story, writing a positive message, or posting a positive image. People can’t travel right now, but SkyScanner (as in the example below) is giving keen travellers hope that one day they will be able to again. Not only is the campaign connecting on an emotional level with their consumers, but it is giving them a real tangible tool to engage with during a time when they have no sales at all. https://mumbrella.com.au/skyscanner-sends-a-message-of-hope-to-travellers-and-releases-destination-themed-spotify-playlists-623595
Find the opportunity
This will be tough, but we are kiwis, it’s in our DNA to be innovative, work hard and deal with adversity. We can’t bury our heads in the sand. It’s one of those times where we all might have to reconstruct and redefine how we do business.
Start the day with getting your team together online over morning coffee and brainstorm some options as a starting point. Take the time to think about any opportunity you can. If you really don’t feel you can change anything now that will make a difference, brainstorm some ideas for how you can build things up afterwards.
Here are a few thought-starters.
If your business really can’t do anything to work during this time, make sure you are ready to hit the ground running when things begin to come back to normal. Either way, let's be up for the challenge, stay positive and set ourselves up to be in good space when this is over.
Support your team, stay safe and be kind
We know we all need to be vigilant during this time, making health and well-being a priority, and looking after the people in our teams. At the end of the day, it's our team that make our business a success. They will be worried and concerned, and no doubt want to help in any way they can to help the business through this time. Keep talking to them, and make sure they have everything they need to stay safe and be positive.
Here are a few ideas to keep everyone engaged:
There are a lot of resources available to businesses to get through this time. Zoom, Slack, Trello are just a handful. We are lucky to live in the 21st century where technology enables us to run our businesses every day. The MOH has a lot of guidelines to support businesses and employees through this time, the Chamber of Commerces around the country are running lots of sessions, and LinkedIn is an ever evolving world of information, so have a read.
There will be a light at the end of the tunnel, let’s work hard and make our brands better than ever on the other side.
Stay safe everyone, we’ll get through this together.