On 11th March, COVID-19 has declared a pandemic. How to manage brand reputation during a crisis? It is evident that this is a time of uncertainty, in many aspects. As schools and businesses shut down, people are losing their jobs and health concerns are at a peak. Therefore, we believe apart from this, to thrive as a business in a crisis your brand reputation is the most valuable intangible asset. The decisions you make now and how you communicate with your market will have a long term impact on your brand, that only time will reveal. How should you act around the different stakeholders of your brand? Here is some guidance.
Look after your employees
The main aspect which is at stake during a crisis is trust. Your employees are part of your brand voice. It’s really crucial for your brand to act with empathy rather than carelessly. As a company, your employees need to feel reassured you are dealing with this situation the best you can. The last thing you want is for your employees to lose their faith in the brand you spent decades building. Recently, Virgin Atlantic grounded ‘up to 85%’ of flights & asked staff to take 8 weeks of mandatory unpaid leave. It’s clear that companies are lowering their expenses in this downturn, but unpaid leave is the worst approach for employee retention. It ruins employee motivation, team spirit, and the drive to passionately represent your brand.
However, there are also companies which are supporting their employees in better ways. For example, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts pledged $500 million for employees. It’s time to show you care for your employees more than ever.
Develop communication with customers
One thing this pandemic has illustrated is that if something is relevant at one moment, at the very next moment it no longer is. Hence, it’s crucial to monitor and respond to customers’ concerns quickly.
During this time it is vital to create and communicate with your customers with content that addresses their current situation. Keeping your internal and external stakeholders in the loop would be a good idea. Communication should depict the values you stand for, during the period of uncertainty.
Few points that can help you develop your content strategy are:
- Review your current organisational goals
- Understand your audiences the current situation and their needs
- Focus on the channels where your audience is active
- Develop call to actions to measure your progress
- Keep in touch constantly
For example, at 3 Colours Rule, we called our clients straight away to find out how they were dealing with the situation and how we could use our expertise and processes to assist them t. Within one week of lockdown, we ran daily live webinars advising companies on how to best deal with the crisis, so they could thrive during and flourish afterwards. The recording of the webinar can be viewed here.
Another good company example is Lyft, who shared their latest updates with their stakeholders on a dedicated webpage to maintain their business effectiveness in COVID- 19.
Maintain your media presence
In these unprecedented times, it’s important to stay aligned with your mission statement. One of the many ways could be a press release or actively maintaining your social media presence. Furthermore, delivering relevant, timely content that solves customers’ immediate and long-term challenges.
As we know, although journalists may be interested in your story, it has never been easy to pitch to them. Itching during COVID-19 one should be mindful that journalists are receiving loads of requests daily, therefore it is recommended that you include key points or takeaways in the body of your pitch email.
In addition, a few ways to maintain your social media presence is by delivering relevant, timely content that solves customer’s immediate and long-term challenges. However, it’s not mandatory to re-invent the whole wheel. A few companies like Slack, are providing tips on what their brand has to offer in this pandemic. This shows that they acknowledge the current scenario and support the community.
In nutshell, be proactive as much as you can, as your brand’s emotional intelligence is being scrutinised by your stakeholders.
During this time when people are strapped for cash, it can be challenging to acquire new customers. However, as a brand, to build your reputation and advocacy, offer flexibility to your customers. Apple acted swiftly to extend the returns period for products purchased in their stores as a result of coronavirus and have received positive PR for it.
To remain in the game it’s important to adapt the best you can. Not all businesses have the cash flow flexibility like big brands, therefore, negotiating a better price deal can give a sigh of relief to SME’s.
As BBC mentioned, “The Residential Landlords Association, which has members from England and Wales, said that if tenants find themselves in this situation, landlords should allow rent to be paid at a later date, assuming that the tenant has a good payment history.”
It’s good to re-negotiate rates with your suppliers. If you are a small company you may also consider joining a local small-business purchasing consortium to help boost your buying power.
Whilst businesses are trying to survive in this crisis they should not forget how their customers are perceiving their brand reputation in a crisis. Do as much as you can to stay aligned with your company mission while supporting your customer needs.