We’re thinking about the novel coronavirus and its watershed impact on businesses of all kinds. And as I’m sure you’re well aware, the situation is still evolving. How can we possibly go on or pivot (yes, we know both look rational depending on the light) when we don’t know what’s next to come? Where is that reset button?
Believe us, we’re right there with you. We’re on high alert. We’re also organizing our thoughts into two categories: things we can control and things we cannot. And we’re focusing only on the can. We recommend you do, too.
5 Ways to Make a Difference Right Now
- Go outside.
- Go inside. (Trust us, it makes sense.)
- Know your audience.
- Focus on the long term.
Brands that listen are those that invite people in for the long term. Logistically, you also have to offer both internal stakeholders and customers the means by which they can reach you. So beyond posting a general COVID-19 update (yes, they’re all starting to blur together) on your home page, how can you infuse your brand personality into these issue-specific communications? And how are you engaging people? Make sure you’re watching your social media channels and reading the emails that go to your general in-boxes. Also, check in with what your local community needs right now. Part of the strength of your brand is your humanity. Are you helping out when, where and how you can? For example, brands we support are suspending shutoffs to address people’s uncertain financial circumstances, organizing non-perishable food donations, reminding employees to support local businesses (takeout counts!), and volunteering in emergency-response command centers. What can you do?
Speaking of brand ethos, you may want to check out our latest Vlad Session on the topic. Our creative and insight teams sat down to talk it out.
2. Go outside.
We mean it literally and figuratively. Fresh air and sunshine work wonders. Also, please remember that you’re not alone. Your coworkers, your partners, and many other brands are experiencing this unsettling period, too. So, while it’s easy to focus only on your business, remember that everyone is affected. In the week of March 9, 2020, across all industries, we saw an average 18% decrease in site traffic year over year. We’re all in this together. Reach out to existing partners to check in, then think of new partnerships you can create with other business owners to strengthen the community.
3. Go inside.
Remember that how and what you communicate internally affects how people perceive your brand externally as well. Your employees and board members want and need to hear from you at this time. Exercise patience if and when there are kinks in normal operations.
4. Know your audience.
Are you talking to the right people? Are you communicating in ways that will resonate with them? At the beginning, and when things shift, fundamentals like audience identification and segmentation really matter. Core brand loyalists, especially, are those who can help to insulate a brand during unpredictable times. Also keep in mind that while brand growth is often a long game, and brand studies are annual and longitudinal, now may be the time to create smaller moments with your customers that quickly produce directional data. Consider an online survey with a small sample size or ask for feedback in regular communication with customers via email. Results from these interactions can help guide ongoing discussions and provide a finger on the pulse. Remember, it is easier to keep a dialogue going than to start or restart one.
5. Focus on the long term.
It’s like “conduct business (as much) as usual” from our earlier discussion of the novel coronavirus, and then some. You have to build relationships today that allow for recovery later. You do this by living your brand, providing the service that represents you, and being present. Here are some other tactical considerations.
Assess and reassess. Success this spring may look different from what you were anticipating. Perhaps this is a time where brand perception metrics supersede immediate sales figures. You know best which metrics matter to your brand. Look at the whole picture.
Respond. Do your best to respond to customer questions on social media within three hours. If you simply can’t adhere to a three-hour response window, develop an automatic reply and set expectations with your audience. Tell them the time frame in which they should expect to hear from you, and what to do if they don’t (yes, this means you need to check your escalation protocol, too). In addition to updating your customer service FAQs with topics specific to COVID-19, consider spot training customer service agents on greater sensitivity in answering calls. At this time, more than ever, make sure that your communications align with your unique brand proposition and organizational values.
Be available and accessible. This is not a time to go totally silent. The foundation of brand success is awareness, and awareness takes considerable time and effort to build. We’re working with many partners on shifting messaging and creative, adjusting dayparts, and changing targeting so campaigns only appear in brand-safe environments. This is a time to double down on strategy and get creative.
What else are you doing and thinking about?
Vladimir Jones is Colorado’s original independent, integrated advertising agency, with offices in Denver and Colorado Springs. We believe in brilliant brands and love making the world love them as much as we do.