Brand Visibility in Crisis
This post was written in response to COVID-19 closures that took place in late March, 2020. It remains unedited from its original form. While much of our global pandemic continues to play out, it was quickly followed by the intense civil unrest in the United States, and globally, that was catalyzed by the murder of George Floyd. We know our customers and readers are experiencing a spectrum of challenges and emotions, and we hope that this helps you in some way.
When will it be ok to market again?
The coronavirus pandemic has brought most US businesses to a standstill. Our doors have closed and our employees are sheltering-in-place. What we thought may be a temporary change is settling into a new norm with no predictable end in sight.
As a marketing professional or business leader, you may be wondering what position your brand should take in this crisis-driven environment. Is it OK for you to be promoting your product or service, driving revenue, winning market share in such challenging times? When business revenue and personal incomes are suffering, is promoting your brand insensitive?
The answer is a little more complex than “yes” or “no”. As insensitive as it feels, your revenue pipeline helps dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of employees provide for themselves and their families. The truth is you—and they—can’t afford to shutter your brand visibility.
The customers you work with also depend on your services. They need you, too.
What really matters is HOW your brand is showing up.
Be kind. Be helpful. Don’t let the difficult times paralyze you or your business. Look for ways to do something good. Our world needs your help.
Eight Ways to Show Up
1. Be empathetic
The best brand experiences are built on empathy. This pertains to any relationship and is especially true in times of crisis or struggle. Tune into your audience and customer base, understand their needs and fears. Figure out how to adapt your customer experience so that when people do find you, you can make their journey easy, fast, and filled with value.
2. Focus on inbound communications
Don’t go to market advertising the bells and whistles of your product or services right now. Instead, create content that is meaningful to your audience’s unique circumstances. Perform an audit of existing content and adapt what you can. House useful resources on your website and share it through your social media platforms and an email to your customers. People will find you. And when they do, they’ll feel seen. They’ll reach out for your services when they’re ready- whether that’s now or when things have settled down.
3. Contribute to your customers’ crisis plans
Show your customers that supporting them through this difficult time is your crisis plan. If you have the capacity, integrate onto your customers’ teams, listen closely, and contribute meaningfully. This is how you cement a strong relationship: getting in the trenches.
4. Support your professional community
Reach out to people in your professional and personal networks to see if there’s any way you can be of help to them. Share your product and expertise. As people reach out to you or connect you with their clients, consider offering consultations, specials, or discounts when it feels right.
5. Point customers toward resources
Everyone is scrambling to figure out their next steps. Help your customers find the support they need, even if it’s not from you. Let’s develop an open-support network that helps all of us.
6. Adapt your product as a community solution
Maybe the traditional way you do business isn’t needed right this second. How can you make yourself useful? If you make plastic products, find a way to make products that help healthcare providers manage patient and caregiver safety. If you develop communications strategies, collaborate with community leaders who are creating crisis messaging.
7. Advance smart, accurate, and realistic messaging
Be a reliable source for responsible communications. The sad truth is that people don’t know whom to believe anymore. Give them someone to turn to with research-based messaging. Don’t sugar coat things, but don’t scare people. Add value, not noise.
8. Support organizations that need help the most
Make purchases from small business suppliers. Buy gift cards from local shops and restaurants and share them with others. Advocate and raise awareness for businesses, nonprofits, and community organizations. Donate and start a fundraiser. Be a #VocalLocal and advocate for small businesses.
When in doubt, be authentic
No matter what our professions, roles, or workplaces, we’re all people. And we’re all in this together. When we remember our shared humanity, we can stand together in community solidarity. Whatever your professional niche, there are ways for you to be empathetic, to be of service, to support the businesses, organizations, and people who need it most.
Don’t do it for the visibility
People can tell when someone is just acting. Genuinely evaluate what your company stands for and how you can provide your services and leadership from a place of integrity and generosity. When the dust settles, that’s what people will remember.
There’s no win in promoting the competitive strengths of your product or chasing market share in times of crisis. There’s a big win in helping everyone in your community get through challenging times as safely as possible.
An enduring devotee of communication design and strategy, I’ve dedicated my 40-year career to delivering outstanding brand value and client experiences. I created Verge Experience Strategies (VergeX) to help you do the same. VergeX works closely with business owners, CMOs, and entrepreneurs to identify and express their brand’s unique value. We then help them build credibility and engagement to win the loyalty of customers, employees, and communities.
Join me as I continue to explore and muse upon the evolution of human communication.