The past few months have seen a massive increase in interest in Mobile and SMS use, aim to better understand the various impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. For many businesses, an epidemic can derail company strategy and cause a variety of unforeseen challenges.
Organizations should be prepared, agile and flexible in the face of a pandemic. Most strategic planning relies on a high degree of certainty and predictability. COVID-19 does not allow for either of these.
The flow-on impact to business and the economy is even less certain. With low interest rates, central banks have fewer options to stimulate a slowing economy and lots of countries are relying more on economic policy, with less predictable outcomes.
An unpredictable future:- This all creates an increased level of uncertainty and unpredictability – the exact opposite of what is required for strategic planning. Strategies set only a few months ago are being disrupted by the rapidly changing and uncertain environment.
For many businesses, the inability to manage cash flow, financing and resourcing in the face of sudden and unpredictable change can put the future of an organization at risk.
Steps to business survival:- The solution is to be prepared and create an agile and flexible organization. This is not as difficult and disruptive as it might sound. For many organizations, undertaking some additional analysis, scenario planning and changes to monitoring will have a significant impact.
There are four key steps organizations should take to help them prepare for any future changes. These are:
1. Scenario analysis.
Consider a variety of likely scenarios. Consider a prolonged period of infection with the economy slowing into a recession as well as a shorter and more intense infection period followed by a quicker economic rebound.
Consider the financial, operational and organizational impact of each, as well as external factors, such as government and competitor responses. Judge how likely each scenario is and how it will develop over time. There are any areas of unpredictability where a range of outcomes are possible, these should also be considered.
A retail client for example, might consider a range of scenarios from business as usual through to extended periods of store closures. They might also consider how their suppliers and customers will be impacted and how this might affect their business.
2. Organizational review.
Undertake a detailed review of your own organization to understand its strengths and vulnerabilities in facing those various scenarios. Consider the organization holistically, including: governance; organizational structure and operations; risk appetite and management; finance and resourcing; and culture. Think about how suited your current approaches are to respond to each scenario and whether there is alignment across the organization.
3. Preparation and change.
The above analysis is likely to highlight a number of areas where change is appropriate, regardless of the scenario. These areas should be identified and appropriate changes made now. For example, if income and debt servicing is probably going to become challenging and it might be worth introducing tighter cash controls now. It may also be worth engaging in some preliminary discussions with your bank. The current panic buying situation is creating a short-term benefit for a client involved in food manufacturing. However, they will also be preparing for the inevitable downturn. They should be developing revised investment strategies to ensure the cash they accumulate now can last through a range of future slowdown scenarios.
After identifying a range of possible scenarios and developing plans to respond, it is important to monitor the situation to determine what reality is emerging. The board and executive team, for example, should consider each scenario and determine the level of reporting and analysis that is required.
Most strategic planning relies on a high degree of certainty and predictability. The longer-term sustainability of organizations is at risk. Those that act now and prepare early have a much greater ability to survive and thrive.
How to Do Empathetic Marketing During a Crisis
Here, we’ve assembled our top tips for addressing your marketing approach during a crisis. While every brand is different, we see this as a basic action plan which will help brands of all sizes make the proper choices and avoid serious mistakes. We’re always hospitable more ideas about the way to address sensitive times thoughtfully. If you have more tips or thoughts, please share them in the comments. We hope you find these tips helpful.
1) Adjust Marketing Campaigns and any Scheduled Content
Some brands are able to produce quick-turn campaigns created for a specific moment (as Ford did when it swapped its vehicle ads for a Corona-virus-response campaign).
• Decide what should be paused immediately.
• Consider what to prioritize or pivot.
2) Evaluate Your Imagery and Language
Visual communication is powerful, as are the words we use, so it’s important to think about the messages your brand is sending.
• Avoid visuals of crowds or people touching. This includes people working in offices or at social gatherings out of the house.
• Re-frame marketing language that describes close interaction. Reconsider figurative language like “get in touch,” “work hand in hand,” or “get closer to your customers.” Messages encouraging immediate interaction may be deeply scrutinized.
• Swap out visuals. If you’ve got current or upcoming campaign visuals which will be tricky, revise the imagery now or push the timeline to later within the year.
Note: We are speaking specifically about “push” content here—the content you are actively putting in front of people across channels during this time (e.g., email subject lines, social posts, current campaign taglines, content, blogs).
3) Don’t Capitalize on the Crisis
This applies to any tragedy or crisis, but it’s particularly important to remember in this climate of worry and fear.
• Keep people informed. Brands do need to communicate in response to the crisis, as it pertains to their business. (Note: If you do plan to create news-centric content, such as an info-graphic, follow our tips to do it without being a jackass.)
• Don’t be an alarmist
• Reduce and avoid bragging
• Be mindful of your tone – No “Hot COVID-19 sales!” or other tactless messaging.
4) Be Positive, But Not Ignorant
In a time when people are uneasy, you don’t need to meet a grim cultural moment with a grim brand tone.
• Look to your Brand Heart for guidance. Use your Brand Heart (purpose, vision, mission, and values).
• Be personable.
• Think about your future messaging.
5) Highlight How Your Brand Can Help
Brands exist to provide value, and the products/services that help during this stressful time deserve the attention of those who can benefit from them. If what you do supports or enhances people’s lives while quarantined, tell that brand story.
• Communicate your benefits.
• Create helpful content.
Remember: The Quarantine Won’t Last Forever
We encourage you to prepare for that transition thoughtfully and proactively. During times like these we’re reminded that the stakes of marketing are not life or death. We are also reminded that feeling productive, and feeling like we add value to the world is very meaningful. We’re aware that many people who rely on this feeling may have lost it suddenly, or may feel unarmored by what’s going on, and our hearts are with them.