Living Your Brand in a Crisis

COVID-19 has every business reeling. Here’s how to use the challenges of this time to strengthen your brand through the crisis.

Wendy Ruyle 4.14.2020

For many of us, COVID-19 is the most serious crisis we’ve seen in our lifetimes. It will have long-lasting implications in many people’s lives, our communities, and most certainly, the economy. So why worry about branding at a time like this?

Because your brand is more than your logo, your brand is your reputation. Here’s your chance to build that reputation for the good. Just as challenges show us the true colors of people, what your organization does during times of stress reflects your true brand. It won’t be easy, but this crisis can help show your leadership, your employees, and your customers what your brand values are.

Here are some tips on how to use the challenges of this time to strengthen your brand.

Make sure your employees are ok

Your company culture is key to your brand. Maintaining that through the pandemic is critical. Obviously, the health and safety of your employees must come first. Make sure they have what they need to do their jobs in the safest way possible and are empowered to call you out if they don’t feel safe. Above and beyond that, make sure they are supported financially. If you have to furlough or lay off staff, help walk them through the unemployment process so they can get the aid they need. Set up support groups and food trains if necessary. Provide as many resources as you can to make sure they land on their feet.

If your staff can mostly work from home and business is still churning, they are still dealing with stress. Caring for parents, homeschooling children, the stress of being isolated—all of these added pressures make for a distracted workforce. Give each other a break. Build in time at the beginning of meetings to see how everyone is doing. Don’t just tolerate but embrace when a child, spouse, or pet shows up in a Zoom call. Stretch your empathy muscles to their limits. It’s good for you and your business!

When the crisis is over, the skills you and your team are learning will be invaluable. The ability to adapt to unpredictable and suboptimal situations is something every business needs. The capacity to empathize will strengthen your team and build bonds that will last a lifetime.

Make sure your customers are ok

We’ve all gotten the emails from every list we’ve ever subscribed to about how each organization is handling the COVID-19 pandemic. It all becomes a blur and feels somewhat meaningless. But, you do want to communicate what you are doing and why your customers should care.

Again, their health and safety must come first. Communicate the safety measures you have put in place to make sure their health isn’t compromised. Even if it means some inconveniences.

Beyond that, think about what you can do to help relieve the stress your customers are under. Offer delivery or remote services so they can make progress on their projects. Over communicate about any delays in your offerings and don’t overpromise. A missed deadline now creates much more stress and many more bad feelings than in normal times. If you can afford to delay invoicing, you might save a job for a b-to-b customer.

Sharing your knowledge and expertise might be just the thing your customer needs. And if you have tools at your disposal that someone could use such as video conferencing, share them. My fitness club offered to loan out kettlebells to anyone who didn’t have their own. It’s a small gesture, but means so much.

Lastly, communicate your interest in their lives. Send notes of concern and encouragement and use (tasteful) humor to lift moods. We all need it right now.

Make sure your communities are ok

Some companies, particularly in manufacturing, are going above and beyond by transforming their businesses to provide critical PPE or cleaning and hand sanitizing products. That’s all amazing, but not every organization can make that big of a shift in their business to help out. But there are many small ways businesses can help their communities.

Use your business connections to help other businesses and nonprofits. Just as neighbors are exchanging toilet paper and flour over the fence, businesses can help each other out. Make introductions within your network and alert them of available talent. Offer your services, offer your knowledge, offer a sounding board to anyone who is struggling.

Now is a great time to give back to local nonprofits that are working overtime. Organize a day of service for your employees to work at a food shelf, sew masks, or deliver food to hospital workers.

Customers want to know they are supporting businesses that are making the world a better place. If you can stop and think about how you as an organization can help make this crisis a little better for someone, you’ll gain a stronger reputation. And that means a stronger brand.

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