By: Forbes featuring Byung Choi Date: May 14, 2020
“Like the rest of the world, I’m struggling to make sense of the widespread impact of COVID-19. In addition to the heartbreaking human impact, these past few months have brought with them unprecedented circumstances, disruption and uncertainty for businesses across the board.
While we are not yet out of the woods, it’s not too early to begin reflecting on lessons we’ve learned along the way. As CEO of a marketing technology company that works with many global brands, I have been paying extra close attention to what companies are doing and how they are communicating in response to the novel coronavirus.
One major differentiator I’ve observed between brands that are succeeding and those that are falling behind is communication. The current situation has heightened the importance of communication for both global and local businesses. On top of the huge economic effect, brands are dealing with minute-by-minute changes that need to be relayed swiftly and effectively.
For example, stores, hotels and other businesses around the world are shortening hours or indefinitely closing to keep up with local guidelines. To broadcast these constant updates, brands need to have a clear overarching message while also remaining relevant to individual markets and communities.
In addition to necessary business updates, brands also have to think about how they will communicate with customers from a marketing standpoint. In a time of crisis, a marketer must position their company as one that can help. The brands that will see success in this are the ones that personalize their approach to their key audiences — showing that they understand them and their needs, and naturally inserting themselves into the solution.
Even brands that wouldn’t be thought of as supporting disaster relief can play into this. A great example of this is Ford’s quick reaction in replacing its non-coronavirus-related marketing with its current “Built to Lend a Hand” and “Built for Right Now” campaigns or turning its airbags into personal protective equipment. People are fearful for what the immediate future holds, and brands have the opportunity to set an example in how to react.
When it comes to marketing, communications don’t end with the first wave of responses. I’ve seen a lot of predictions on when campaigns can return to normal. The fact of the matter is, there is no “normal” when it comes to marketing. The beauty of marketing is that it is ever evolving, through the good and bad moments of history alike. Most markets will forever be changed; likewise, so will marketing.
Communication is not only vital for external stakeholders and customers, but also within the walls of your own company. “Transparency” has been a buzzword when talking about internal communications, and it’s vital now more than ever. Whether it be good, bad or downright ugly, constant communication and transparency is how you help everyone stay proactive, united and prepared for what is to come.
Especially when it comes to bad news, maintaining transparency and making sure you’re communicating openly from the start is better than leaving your staff unsure and in the dark. There is strength in approaching difficulties as a team and not as an individual.
When it comes to advice for business leaders right now, the only thing I can say is that we will make it through. As leaders, we create, build and provide, and we will survive. It’s in any business leader’s DNA. Lead your teams through this in any way you can, and above all else, take care of your people.
Be thankful for what you do have instead of focusing on your troubles. You might not be in a position to provide cash, but a thoughtful message and checking in will go a long way. Even if you cannot provide predictability, you can provide calm through the toughest of storms. And always remember, everyone is human. Emotions are normal, and it is OK to not be OK.
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