Our health comes before profit in every way, shape or form. For many companies, however, the Covid-19 crisis is not about loss of profit: it may be a matter of life and death. Of course, all the major brands will be ok: nobody expects Coca Cola to have to close up shop because of the Coronavirus. Smaller brands and companies, however, may have a harder time bouncing back after the abrupt halt that this crisis has brought about. The inevitable loss of profit, which is already happening, will combine with the devastating impact of a fragile market and the clamour of thousands of brands trying to climb back to their former positions – which could be unattainable. How do we face this?
How to manage your brand in a crisis
Italian entrepreneurs have been googling this sentence for a while, and their colleagues all over the world are now following. Google, however, may prove less helpful than usual on this count. All the literature on this subject – or most of it – deals with the management of a crisis that the company itself has caused. There is, therefore, a lot about not making crucial mistakes and not causing a crisis in the first place. What we are experiencing now, however, is hardly the kind of crisis the average small brand could have foreseen, let alone avoided. This is not about a tone-deaf comment by a social media manager. This is bigger than a board member or a founder being involved in a scandal. This is worse than a really bad investment or picking the wrong logo or colour scheme.
Put your money where your mouth is
Have you noticed how social media, all through the Coronavirus pandemic, have become increasingly unbearable? There’s no hiding it: they have. Most of the social discourse can be summed up in two large groups: on one side there are furious fights over social distancing (those who ignore it vs those who scream at those who ignore it), on the other, there are overemotional – albeit comprehensible – attempts at uplifting messages and calls for solidarity. Where do you stand in all this? Do brands and companies have a place in what is essentially a debate of individuals? They do. There is one topic of conversation on which you can intervene: work safety and workers’ protection. Everyone is currently worrying about what will happen to their jobs, their security, their future. What are you going to do about it? Plan your steps with care, if you are allowed to stay open, implement policies that protect your workers’ safety. If not, try to work with your local institutions to guarantee their safety. Go the extra mile, even if that calls for management to renounce a few benefits and privileges to protect the workforce. Be clear, transparent, consistent and go public about your policy. Not only it is the ethical thing to do, but it is also your best option. When this is over, workers and customers will remember who did what and they will rally around the companies who treated their workers’ health and their financial security with respect. Make sure you have a policy page on your website.
Is there anything you can do differently? Let your clients know!
What do your clients need? How can you get it to them? This is the time to ask these questions all over again as if you were just starting in business. Think of alterations you can make to your everyday procedures to get your clients what they want and need. Can you provide remote counselling? Ship your products instead of delivering them through your usual channels? Is there anything you can give away for free? Can you reach out to your clients with a token of real solidarity? Can you donate to a relevant charity and invite your clients to do the same?
Crisis is just another word for opportunity
Have you heard that phrase before? We bet you have. And have you punched the person who said it in the face? We hope not, but we bet you wanted to. A crisis on this scale is not an opportunity. And even if it did prove to be the event that made some or all of us more aware of how to work responsibly and provide protection to the most fragile and defenceless members of our society, it would be immoral to call it “an opportunity”, when it has cost thousands of people their lives. This is not an opportunity and we would all be better off if it had not occurred. But it has, and we need to be the best, kindest, most considerate version of ourselves to get through it. Crises are something that happens. Opportunities are something you create, and you don’t need to wait around for a crisis to arrive.