A tone of reassurance, strength and comfort feels right for many, but a better approach emphasizes agility and adaptation. Or, to put it more simply: Try lots of things.
With so many factors currently out of your control, use this moment to encourage your communications team to be more creative, emboldening them to think beyond what expectations were in the past. Don’t stick to your usual marketing script. Instead, second-guess your own assumptions about what comes next, and then revise that strategy every day based on what is happening in real time on the ground with your company.
That’s not just conjecture on my part. In a survey of 35,000 global consumers, Kantar found that just 8% of respondents thought brands should stop advertising completely, but rather adapt their communications to what’s going on in their world.
Other revealing stats include: 78% of consumers wanted brands to help them, while 75% of consumers wanted to hear what brands were doing in response to the virus. Almost 80% believe employee health should be a key priority for companies, while almost two-thirds believe flexible working should be a priority.
In that last regard, many corporate leaders have shown their willingness to try new things by the way they have managed remote working.
Eight months into this work-from-home-experiment, business leaders have seen firsthand that time in the office doesn’t necessarily equal higher productivity compared with working from home. By staggering working times, reducing the number of people needed in meetings, and using virtual tools to connect, collaborate and create, most companies have successfully navigated productivity issues, as well as concerns from staffers wanting to feel part of a team.
In addition, some companies have used the benefit of the current virtual structure to expand their talent pool beyond their physical location to bring greater diversity to their company.
These are all fantastic consequences of not having rigid working structures, but bottom line: Strong corporate leadership right now means being able to adapt fast to a changing world.
That also means rethinking your creative approaches in terms of how your brand communicates to its customers online. Brands don’t need to be afraid to speak during this time, and consumers aren’t expecting brands to be perfect at handling a situation that’s taken the world by surprise. But most assuredly, they want them to try.
What does that mean on the micro-level? It means letting go of initiatives you might have really cared about in favor of more timely topics. It can also mean giving up some control as you revise your strategy and innovate, delegating more, and allowing your team to be more agile and spontaneous (therefore, more creative).
And it can also mean getting some things wrong, then owning it when you get it wrong. Consumers can be forgiving, as long as you are transparent.
But as we all know, failure is a teachable moment. The real death of a company happens when it is afraid to try anything new.
A crisis like COVID-19 tests good leadership because it amplifies your values as a business and tests your mettle. But it also offers your company the chance to think creatively and uncover new opportunities, revenue streams, and talent. All of which will make you and your company stronger, and turn you into the type of business Jedi that would make Yoda proud.