Where we are: Well into quarantines across the country, there’s been a great many articles, webinars and conversations covering everything from what Coronavirus (COVID-19) is, to the impacts it may have on our health, companies, communities and industries. It’s clear we’re in the midst of a crisis. And while this may be uncharted territory for many, at the core of it all is a profound desire found during any crisis: a deep need for support, protection and confidence. For all of us to come together – individuals, brands or government – to create a new tomorrow. To do this creates an opportunity for brands. An opportunity to connect. To be valiant. To reinvent our norms.

What we know: Consumer expectations aren’t just mile-high, they’re sky-high. What a brand does now will impact whether it’s considered a viable long-term solution with customers. But we know building trust, respect and demonstrating commitment to customers never goes out of style. Tackling the current COVID-19 crisis in manageable chunks can help deliver upon customer needs while also creating a strong foundation for the future business state.

So what’s next? During part one of our three-part journey we’ll discuss lessons learned from the COVID-19 crisis and how to plan for the future.

Overcoming Coronavirus – Be A Strong Brand to Withstand a Crisis

When you hear “there’s a crisis,” what’s the first thing that comes to mind?

Is it CNN’s report on “The Gulf spill: America’s worst environmental disaster?” How about Sports Illustrated’s Punch seen ’round the world” Or maybe it’s when USA Today reported “Yahoo may be the biggest data breach” of all time?

The reality is, even if your crisis isn’t that big, it feels that way.

No one ever expects a crisis to take shape. Because most of the time we see it happening to someone else. Another company. Another industry. Another team. We empathize with the marketers and communications professionals handling customers, investors, stakeholders .. and we’re grateful it’s not us. But thanks to COVID-19, the playing field has been leveled. We’re all in this global pandemic together. No industry or customer or company is untouched.

That’s why now is the time to invest in crisis communications preparation. As you revisit crisis playbooks (or build one if you don’t have one) keeping perspective is crucial. Reflect upon the role your company plays in the economy and market. Tailor the approach to not only deliver upon business needs, but to also identify how to rise as a thought-leader. So, how can you ensure the brand is built to withstand a crisis?

Crisis considerations

There are three phases to account for – before, during and as the crisis subsides – and planning and preparation should help you get through with the least possible damage to your brand. If you have a keen understanding of the market landscape, the role your company plays and have invested in a strong brand positioning you should be in good shape. Not sure how you match up? Here are some considerations.

  • Research the market – Assess the landscape, situation and impacts. Figure out what’s happening. Don’t just rely on news sources. Talk to executives, on-the-ground staff and customers. Do research early and often and get the facts straight.
  • Evaluate brand positioning – Have you clearly defined and articulated your brand? How does your purpose match up to your promise? Evaluate the positioning and understand how it’s being perceived during a time of crisis. Pivot if needed.
  • Identify key stakeholders and brand representatives – Determine up to three spokespeople to serve as the public face of the company. They should be media trained, well-versed on all aspects of the business and personable.
  • Find the right partners – During this time partners that provide counsel, support and input is key. Organizations like Brunner are designed to help brands as they surge in need and scale as business right sides. Lean on us.
  • Appraise your crisis plan – Review current resources, messaging strategies and consider any timely optimizations that should be put in place for current and future use.
  • Build messaging and align on distribution channels – Communicate with compassion and be honest and timely. Figure out what stakeholders need to know and deliver. But don’t fall into the trap of providing more than what’s needed; focus on mitigating any confusion.
  • Monitor, report and adapt – Things can change on a dime; agility is paramount. Keep an eye on the landscape, the media and your business. Don’t be afraid to evolve.

It’s easy to succumb to fear during a crisis. The fear of the unknown, of the future and perhaps even most paralyzing, of making a mistake. But with a strong brand, strong playbook, and the right perspective, brands will emerge from COVID-19.

So, what comes next? Learn how to protect your brand with reputation management.