For the past four weeks, I’ve spent my days helping business leaders make big decisions with big consequences.
How can we be sensitive to the current situation but, at the same time, bring in revenue? Should we be completely silent? Or can we be out there talking about what we have to offer? We respect and agree with the restrictions, but what can we do to shift course? How can we be seen as a calming force when, in fact, we are just a tad terrified?
We have ourselves a communication conundrum, my friends. We don’t want to be seen as spammy and inappropriate, but we have responsibilities to employees, investors, and our own families.
Can we sell our stuff or not?
Let’s discuss. We have a crisis that came in like a storm without warning. The world has changed within a few weeks, and yet, nothing has changed at all. Just like any day of the year, we want to be sensitive to the context in which our buyers exist. We need to be of service to them, and we need our actions to speak louder than our marketing.
You shouldn’t have to feel apologetic about making an offer if it helps people in the context for which they are operating. There are countless ways this story manifests:
- The local drug store should be talking about the hard-to-find supplies they have received.
- The outdoor retail store may have to close, but they shouldn’t apologize for offering private shopping experiences to pick up running shoes, or dog harnesses so they can help get people out into fresh air and keep their sanity.
- The education foundation should still tell the stories of the teachers, but now, maybe they are talking about the heroes who have quickly transformed to online learning. Or giving tips about how to homeschool your child.
- The hotel in a remote location might not be trying to book rooms, but they can get people excited to travel again one day.
- The fine-dining restaurant is now delivering date-night and family-style meals.
- A shoe factory in Palestine can’t make people buy shoes if people don’t need shoes right now. Sometimes shifting the message isn’t enough. They are now manufacturing face masks.
- A car manufacturing line is now making respirators.
No need to go quiet. Adapt and communicate.
Let me ask you something: What does your email inbox and social media feed look like these days? Let me guess; it’s packed with free webinars, articles on how to work from home, ways to transform your face to face offerings to digital offerings.
Everyone is adapting.
It’s likely also filled with annoying messages that fall off the mark.
When this is over, we will remember the brands that were the heroes. This is an important thing to note because now is our opportunity to be uniquely us. To fit within the context, be of service, and take action accordingly.
CEO Marriott Arne Sorenson is one of those brands we’ll remember. See his announcement in this video. He doesn’t have good news to deliver. And you can tell he doesn’t relish delivering it. (He gets pretty emotional toward the end) What’s more, he is battling cancer and has no hair, but he didn’t let that stop him from doing the video.
The storm came in without warning. The best way to weather a storm is to have a loyal following. It’s that paddle you need when you’re up the creek if you don’t mind my mixing metaphors. I realize this isn’t helpful if you find yourself in the storm without the paddle. And so, now is your opportunity to shine, so you are one of the ones they remember.
Now is your time to be your most authentic you.
You’ll have the paddle the next time the storm rolls through.
Take care out there.[ssba]