As Winston Churchill famously quoted “Never let a good crisis go to waste”. As a leader during crisis, he became more strategic, communicated both effectively and inspirationally. Brands can take some learnings from this during the COVID-19 crisis in asking how they maintain trust? How do I communicate and enhance consumer confidence?
In an era of corporate transparency and economic crisis, the actions of businesses, industry and brands are under greater scrutiny and judgement. It is vital that brands don’t knee-jerk react, but maintain their integrity, understand what their customers require, stay true to their brand values, and continue to communicate in the most appropriate and manageable way.
It is easy to get distracted, panic and make drastic, non-strategic decisions in times of crisis. But in the past (admittedly this crisis is unlike any other), those who hone their brand, that focus on communicating the right message at the right time will be well placed to see this through.
Here is a 6-point checklist for brands on a mission to find the light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel.
Now is the time to conduct a review and focus on what you don’t need. Financially reviewing your business and cutting unnecessary costs straight away, will allow you to focus on what is important and continue to move forward in a positive way.
When reviewing your operational and capital expenses, there will be a lot of challenging decisions, especially when it comes to human resources. Remember the value in employees, what they were doing for your business before the crisis, and how vital their experience and skills as we move through its duration.
Where skills are lost, a key question is how quickly would you be able to gain those lost skills back once the crisis is over? What is the cost-to-benefit ratio of future recruitment against current resourcing? Are there other ways to reduce overheads so as to ensure you maintain culture and morale?
As all organisations are looking to streamline their operations, it’s critical to figure out what you need and what is prudent to ditch. Look after employees, customers, and suppliers, as they are the three most important groups for your business when we lift out of this tough period.
Crises drive the need to reframe business strategy. How you are going to get through the next 3 months, the next 6 months, the next 12 months? Business has changed so dramatically since COVID-19 has engulfed the world. Of your revenue streams, which are still performing? Which ones can no longer be supported in our new reality? How ready are you for a more digital environment? Are there any easy to access opportunities within your current market that you could easily pivot to?
To survive, many brands have pivoted dramatically into completely new markets, where areas of demand have been identified as potential opportunity. Some great examples we have seen here are gin distilleries pivoting to hand sanitisers, or manufacturing companies producing equipment for healthcare professionals.
They have asked themselves the important question “What can we do with what we have?” The answer may not be what they were expecting, or what they dreamed their future would look like. But these pivots, transferring resources and skills into unfamiliar areas, may well be what keeps them alive for future business opportunities.
The key takeaway is innovate: think about every angle possible, and utilise your resources wisely.
A potentially damaging strategy that an organisation could take is to sit tight and wait for this crisis to blow over. There is no worse strategy than doing nothing. Fear can often lead to knee-jerk decisions such as selling off assets or cutting costs to the point where they cannot operate. An example of short-term reactive decision making, airlines and travel companies may have thought that holding on to their customers money would have allowed them to get through this period. It was soon obvious that for this sector, the crisis ran deeper than holding on to cancellation fees. This sector is not going to return to its former normality for some time, if at all.
Looking longer term, generating entirely new revenue streams is critical for the climb out of this downturn. There is a massive opportunity for brands to reinvent themselves in exciting and new ways to meet the demands of the world moving forward. Profits and dividends will come later if you make the right moves now.
Now is not the time to underestimate the power of communication. Customers are online, they are watching the news, listening to latest updates and in their spare time, they are seeking their entertainment online or communicating with friends online. Now, more than ever, concisely and consistently reaching your audience (potential new and existing customers) is vital.
As a brand, you need to consider your communication strategy both internally and externally. Your messaging must evolve, be reflective of the daily situation and considerate to your customers’ needs, without being opportunistic or playing on fear.
If your website or social media communications have not evolved since the crisis began, your brand may be perceived as being out of touch, or insensitive. Regardless of what your product/service provision, you need to empathise with your customers. Place yourself in their shoes to determine what solutions you can offer to their problems. Your message must continually evolve as we move through the crisis, with a sense of togetherness that will keep you connected to your customers.
Internally, communication is just as important. Don’t ever feel like you are over-communicating with your team. With communication comes confidence and reassurance. Silence can breed anxiety.
Once you have your business strategy and messaging refined, the next step is execution. If you don’t start marketing, no one will be aware of your new positioning or messaging. If you haven’t already developed your marketing campaigns and lead-nurture sales funnels, now is the time.
Create content that resonates, educates and motivates your audience. Pick the most effective channels in which to focus your communications and ensure your marketing is highly targeted. Use your owned media as much as possible as these customers already know and like you. Customers who are already in your sales funnels, or engaged in your brand in any channel are an important asset. Now, and now more opportune than ever, is the chance to reach new audiences.
Look at your current KPIs and ask: are these all still relevant? If met, will they help you survive this crisis? You need to be realistic in your goal setting. Now may not be a time to look at profit as a singular metric of survival: ensuring efficiency and effectiveness may be more beneficial, or activity vs output may be a more relevant metric.
It is also important to take the temperature of your audience, get a good read on whether your messaging is resonating, and how your brand is performing compared to your competitors.
Surviving the Covid-19 crisis in the short term may not be enough. Like past crises, it too will pass. However it will create a new normal, and it is in this context your organisation needs to learn how to thrive again.