Nobody has to be reminded that the coronavirus pandemic, which continues to sweep across the world, represents a challenge for everyone. In the UK, for instance, the Prime Minister has asked the population to avoid offices and travelling – more than and many business leaders have asked their teams to ‘self-isolate’ and work from home. There’s a real siege mentality, and often in this kind of situation you feel like battening down the hatches, cost-cutting, withdrawing, and hunkering down for the foreseeable future.
Serve your people first
Who can blame anyone, or any business, for having this instinct? It’s no secret that there are going to be economic repercussions and that many businesses are under strain. But this doesn’t mean that for as long as the virus lasts, businesses cannot look after their employees, serve their clients, and use the time intelligently.
Establish a customer dialogue
The lockdown is physical. But the digital world is as open and busy as ever. Take advantage of this. All businesses can use social and use content to communicate to their stakeholders and the wider public about how they’re putting the health of their employees first, but also carrying on as usual and working hard. They can send a clear message to their own industries and their fellow businesses will take strength from that.
Solidarity at a time like this is so important. Businesses that are ordinarily fierce rivals have to be united as industries and as important parts of society against something that affects everyone. By talking, talking, talking over social, in the media, and through content, businesses can make it plain that they’re refusing to be afraid. But it’s also through communication that you eliminate ambiguity. Ambiguity in life causes a great deal of anxiety. At a time like this, when there is ambiguity everywhere, there is naturally a lot of tension and nervousness. It’s only through open and constant communication that you can start to deal with this, and your stakeholders will appreciate it.
Develop digital dominance
There are other ways to use this time wisely. You can explore digital transformation by looking at the systems and processes within your team. Since people have to work from home and remotely, it should become clear where you’re lacking digitally. Rather than dismiss this or allow it to become a frustration, you can try new third-party tools and ways of working, and you’re going to have all the time in the world to experiment with different options. You can even, if you have the capacity and the resources, develop proprietary systems that will have benefits for your team and, potentially, for others long after the coronavirus crisis. These conditions provide the ultimate laboratory setting for this kind of work.
Build a brand for the future
In a wider way, you can switch to more brand-led activity. If sales are dropping, then businesses should think about how they can really develop a strong, trusted, consistent brand that ensures their financial health in the long term. Much of the talk in recent years has been about short-termism and the failure of brands to do this. Now they have an opportunity to think about how they can join the dots in all their communication, develop an authentic profile, and reflect the needs of their stakeholders in their messaging.
Let bygones be bygones
We’re in this together. Agencies, far from being thought of as an extravagance at times like these, have a central role to play in the strategic side of business. The time is not to dismiss those agencies but to bring them into the fold, and to work with them to create the conditions in your business that will allow it to fly out of the blocks when the pandemic comes to an end. Within the world of agencies, the key word is collaboration.
We can’t be afraid to have conversations as an industry, and to cooperate as a community. Now is not the time to compete but to work together, to communicate and to innovate. And the same applies to brands. Brands should sit down with their competitors, partner up, cooperate, and share their knowledge to help their sectors and industries survive.
Be considerate and kind
The reality is that as serious as the pandemic is, it won’t last forever. We should never forget those suffering and those that will suffer as a result of the pandemic, and we should always put health and safety first. But for the sake of keeping our economy strong and spirits high, we can’t just withdraw. We can’t just shut up shop. Businesses can use this time intelligently so that, when the pandemic ends, they can emerge more united, with fresh thinking and new innovations, and ready to work with brands to deliver an even better service than they did before.