I'm getting tons of emails about the Coronavirus outbreak with advice on how to protect myself, how to work remotely, and what to do if I have symptoms.
Likewise, my inbox is filled with sympathetic messages from consumer and business brands that have my email address. They are ensuring me that their products are available online, that their services may be accessed by working with their employees who are operating in a virtual environment and that they are here to help. Others are advising of a short-term hiatus.
All of the above is helpful, but stop sending me information you got from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). It is remarkable how many brands and news outlets are republishing updates and recommendations directly from the CDC. While I have high regard for content from this source, I don't need others to send the information when I can visit www.CDC.gov. Well, OK, maybe the emails aren't personal and this is important for many others who are not visiting the CDC on their own.
Whether or not your business is directly impacted by the pandemic, this is not a time for companies to retreat. This issue of Marketing Coach suggests ways to insure that your brand continues to relevant.
Pandemic Communication: Be Relevant Now
Bolster Your Brand Now! So, what should brands be communicating to their employees, customers and other stakeholders? There ARE many things that are of value for brands to discuss right now. Here are some ideas.
What role does your brand play in the new reality? Do you have resources that may improve people's experiences while working remotely, quarantining at home, trying to access anti-bacterial gel and wipes, getting them food or essential supplies?
Does your brand provide tech support, online tools, cable or cell connections to improve or create communication channels and reduce isolation from family, friends or colleagues? Are there brand-related products and services you can offer that would help address the unprecedented demand for these issues at this time?
Does your brand provide entertainment that can make self-quarantining more pleasant? Less lonely? Determine what products or services you can offer as value-added or complementary to your customers. Then, figure out what you can offer to the general public during the crisis...you never know who may become a loyal customer later.
How can your brand help meet emerging needs for virtual sharing, especially for education? Do you have real experience conducting online seminars, training, classes, or product and service learning? Is that experience at the college level? K-12? For toddlers?
Are you able to share professional guidance with parents about childcare, how to engage children while they cannot leave the house or visit their friends?
Do you have resources to recommend for those struggling with heightened mental health reactions and challenges? What support or resources can you offer for those experiencing anxiety as staying in place extends into the future?
Are your services or business positioned to assist more vulnerable communities such as the elderly, disabled, or other high-risk groups? If you engage with these groups already or can repurpose your current operations to be of help to these groups, then you should be communicating this to the communities that could use your services.
Is your product or service something that consumers or businesses would use at a much later date? It could be helpful for you to identify a time when people are ready to hear from you for planning. Let your customers and prospects know your point of view on the current situation and the circumstances under which you will be in touch with them. Provide them with resources related to your brand and company so they have a reason to connect with you.
If your brand does not have a direct offering that is timely for customers during this phase of the crisis, still take this opportunity to strengthen your relationships, continue to build your reputation and position your company for the "new normal" that will come later in the virus's curve. Consider setting up your own Coronavirus email box or hotline that your customers can use to contact you. Include links to your master Facebook page and Twitter feed and use these and other social media channels to communicate your pandemic communications.
If your brand's story and values call for a higher purpose, you will want to develop messaging and offers that reflect it. Many companies are doing their part to help people adjust to the new and changing landscape brought on by the Coronavirus:
Scholastic is providing free online learning services
Zoom is offering K-12 schools no-cost videoconferencing services during this crisi
LVMH cosmetic factory and some distilleries are making hand sanitizers and distributing for free
Comcast announced a new program called Internet Essentials, which offers two months of free internet access to low-income families
What is your brand doing for the public or communities where your employees and customers work to help out in this time of crisis? Is your company paying hourly wage employees who are unable to travel to work? Providing childcare? Feeding low income children who depend on schools for meals?
If there are new challenges tied to "Shelter in Place" or social distancing requirements that you are able to help address through your work, let people know. If your company is able to assist a non-profit or enter into a partnership with a government organization, set up charitable giving options for your stakeholders that tie back to your organization's vison, mission and values.
Provide links to community organizations involved in assisting in this dire situation that could benefit from all means of support.
Demonstrate your leadership and brand purpose by sharing this information across multiple channels targeting customers, employees, investors, and business partners.
Eventually, we will transition from high-alert to rebuilding our societies and workplaces. In both instances, you have an opportunity to make your brand accessible and position it as part of a solution.
Ivy Cohen Corporate Communications helps companies build reputations and differentiate in a competitive market through thought leadership, public education, issues management, content strategy, and strategic communications. To find out how ICCC can help you and your company build your reputation contact firstname.lastname@example.org, call 212-399-0026 or visit www.ivycohen.com.