Branding is about who you are and who you want to be . . .
and the steps to take to make that happen!
I sat down to write an article on the preparation of electronic files for various purposes – commercial printing, publications, the Internet, electronic ads, novelty items, etc. However, we are in the middle of a world-wide health and financial emergency, and my partner and I felt we’d be remiss not to address that subject instead.
When a crisis occurs, you have an opportunity to demonstrate that you are a good corporate citizen and simultaneously cement and communicate your brand to current and potential customers in a positive way.
Developing Your Message
One of your first priorities as a small business owner when trouble strikes is to send your employees and your customers a message about the situation. You need to be empathetic to their circumstances and emphasize that you are all facing the same difficulties because (most of the time) you will be.
You need to provide an overview of the steps you are taking to manage the crisis and (if relevant) explain any modifications being made to your products/services to deal with the situation and address special needs. Finally, you must emphasize the importance of good communication and outline in detail the best ways to contact you with any problems or concerns – phone, e-mail, text messaging, social media etc.
Needless to say, you have to prepare your employees for any changes to their roles due to the crisis, and you should coach them on the proper information to communicate when dealing with the public.
Once you have figured out the correct content of your message, you need to prepare versions for all of the various media you will be using:
[ ] letter
[ ] web site posting
[ ] social media posting(s)
[ ] signage for physical location (including any changes to usual hours) and instructions for getting in touch
[ ] PSA (Public Service Announcements) for local media
[ ] Press releases communicating information of interest to the public
While not all of these vehicles will be appropriate for everyone, every business will need to utilize more than one, remembering that different customers have very different preferences for receiving information.
Memories Are Long
Part of being a good corporate citizen is to honestly assess the part your product/service plays in the community. Are you essential . . . or a luxury? If you are the former, you will need to reassure people that you will continue to serve them with the least possible disruption. You want to be sure to stay away from any language or unintentional suggestion that you are exploiting the situation for profit or gain. Conversely, any steps taken at such times to offer charitable assistance and lend a hand to the community at large are important. While your business might be suffering from a less profitable moment, too – chances are others are dealing with even more difficult circumstances and could use your help.
Memories are long. When conditions improve, your customers will remember your behavior. Did you lend a helping hand . . . or just help yourself?
In all of your communications, be honest and truthful. People have an innate ability to recognize when you are being evasive and less than forthcoming. While we certainly understand that some information is private or cannot be shared due to the likelihood of being misunderstood, you will do your business and your brand the most good by developing a reputation for being the kind of company a person can trust.
While honesty can be difficult in the short-run because hard messages sometimes have to get delivered, the long-range benefits will be worthwhile. People will be inclined to believe ALL of your messaging, which is one of the key benefits of building a good brand.
Be safe. Be well.
Observe the guidelines implemented for our collective good!!
Note: In the midst of a crisis, future planning is probably the furthest from your mind. Nevertheless, planning is also an act of faith and optimism for the future. An upcoming article will explore the reasons all of us should be developing contingency plans for portions of our business that can be conducted online.