While it may not seem like it, the COVID-19 pandemic will subside and shelter-in-place orders will ease. Probably just as you and your team have hit a groove in your “new normal” work strides. As a followup to our discussion about how to move forward with business communications during a global crisis, we are looking towards the future. Now is the time to consider what your business’s new, new normal will be like.
It’s quite possible that individuals may need time to mentally and emotionally recover from this months-long ordeal. Each person on your team will have experienced the toll of COVID-19 differently, whether they realize it or not. Be sympathetic and aware as everyone re-adjusts. Entrepreneur Mark Cuban explained in an interview just how critical businesses’ treatment of employees and stakeholders is during this time, even saying their approach will “define their brand for decades.” One way business leaders can show their support is including helpful resources in an internal email. Every business is a people business. Putting your team first will make a world of difference towards your post-COVID-19 business growth from employee loyalty to being able to proudly answer a future interviewee’s question of, “How did the company handle COVID-19?”.
Looking towards the future from a business communications perspective, there are several tactics to keep in mind for setting your brand up for success post-pandemic.
Always Be in Control of Your Narrative
One of the biggest mistakes a business can make, in good times or bad, is to let external voices control its story. This happens when key business moves are not publicly addressed directly from the get-go.
While your leadership, or marketing team, may be hesitant to announce news about company growth, success, leadership changes, etc. out of fear that your company might seem insensitive to the crisis, withstand the urge to stay quiet. Instead, work together to define key messages prior to announcing the news that reflects how you wish to tell the story. PR teams can be integral in helping to prepare these messages and get your leadership in front of the proper outlets to control the narrative — whether positive or negative. With this avenue of action, you seed evidence of third-party validation and continue proving to stakeholders, and investors (past and present) that your company is prepared to succeed in the future.
Don’t Slow Down on Digital Communications
As stay at home orders are lifted and social distancing measures ease, there will be increasing opportunities to meet with prospects and customers in-person. Just because these physical gatherings can re-commence, does not mean all your digital efforts should be dropped. “When it comes to both PR and marketing, continuity is critical for success. These two business development tools are just as much about relationship building as in-person connections,” says Wayne Schepens, Managing Director of LaunchTech Communications. “Throttling PR on and off like a faucet will damage relationships with reporters, send negative signals to competition and cause digital and social media exposure to drop.”
By consistently executing PR and marketing communications, your brand remains relevant online which has always been a critical arena for garnering awareness. Digital content such as virtual roundtables and webinars are assets that can be reused. If another unprecedented incident occurs and gatherings are again banned, you’ll want your online footprint to be steadfast and robust.
Pick a Cause and Commit for the Long-Haul
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is no longer a ‘nice to have’ component to your brand, it’s a point of parity. CSR is multi-faceted. In some instances, it is defined by a company forgoing short-term profit to make positive institutional changes like when CVS pulled all tobacco products from its shelves to demonstrate its mission to promote health and wellness. CSR also encapsulates dedication to a specific cause or charity. For example, Tom’s donates a pair of shoes to a child in need with every purchase made. In either case, CSR boils down to the fact that actions speak louder than words.
Looking at the world post-COVID-19, think long-term when you brainstorm a cause your brand will support. Here are two routes to consider — community involvement and/or a tie into your brand attributes. Community involvement should not just include a single volunteering session at a local soup kitchen once a year around the holidays. To make a bigger impact, make a monthly commitment even if it means shutting down the office an hour early on your volunteering day. Alternatively, you can make a connection between your brand and a cause. For example, ThreatQuotient, whose logo includes a rhino, has adopted baby rhinos and actively raises awareness for Helping Rhinos by sharing information about the organization on its website and social media, and at events.
CSR affects your internal team and stakeholders first and foremost, so get them involved in your brainstorming process early on and be open to new suggestions.
As you prepare for what business looks like for your company post-pandemic, take comfort in the fact that this is uncharted territory for everyone. Lean on your knowledge of best practices and instincts. Always put your team first and you’ll start off on solid ground.