The Covid-19 pandemic has caused a world-wide pause. With nationwide unemployment reaching a rate of 11.1% (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics), consumers do not have the capital they normally would to patronize non-essential companies. As commerce begins to slowly pick up, companies are finding ways to pivot their efforts to make an immediate impact for stakeholders during the pandemic. Putting these changes into effect not only strengthens brand messaging in the present, but can also set the stage for a post-pandemic rebrand when it comes to caring for consumers’ needs.
During the beginning phases of the pandemic, the shortages of personal protection equipment, cleaning supplies, and ventilators caused mass hysteria. Consequently, essential workers and medical personnel were left with limited supplies. To fill the estimated gap, automobile companies GM and medical supply start-up, Ventec, formed a partnership to create 30,000 ventilators by August 2020. CURLS, a Black-owned hair-care company, announced that they would start including personal hand sanitizer in customers’ orders and would donate even more. CEOs from Prada have donated money to support two intensive care units in Italy. These companies understand their corporate social responsibility and they are shouldering it when people need it most. While these gestures may not seem to benefit the bottom line at first glance, they do something that is more invaluable—they allow brands to create direct human connections with existing and potential stakeholders. This can be leveraged for greater brand awareness, impact, and ultimately, profit.
Companies that produce goods seem like a perfect scenario for this because they have most of the raw materials (or a way to procure them) to transition into the fight against coronavirus, but what about companies that offer experiences and services? How about state governments? Two governors, both Republican, have displayed polar opposite responses to COVID-19 when it came to making life-changing decisions. Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland has been recognized by news-outlets and citizens alike for his declaration that all people must wear face masks when in public. At the height of the crisis, he was seen receiving a large shipment of coronavirus tests from South Korea, which he and the first lady of Maryland procured. “The administration made it clear over and over again they want the states to take the lead and we have to go out and do it ourselves,” Hogan says. “So, that’s exactly what we did.” While Hogan was gathering more tests through his own means, Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia reopened the state of Georgia despite CDC recommendations and a severe lack of tests. Other local leaders like Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms of Atlanta, Georgia opposed Kemp’s actions. She was quoted saying, “I’ve spoken with several leaders across this state. So we really are at a loss, and I am concerned as a mother and as the mayor of our capital city.” Because coronavirus is not a partisan issue, it’s easy to look at the decisions made by each governor and confidently say which one is exercising corporate social responsibility. Governor Hogan is making political waves and an even bigger name for himself.The resulting positive publicity will be advantageous for any other potential political moves he may make in the future. Why? People will remember what he stood for and what he did to keep his citizens safe.
COVID-19 has put extreme amounts of pressure on every industry. What will count now and in the uncertain future is how quickly businesses can recognize the changes that need to be made and then work strategically to put them into action. The first steps are to recognize how the environment has shifted and separate what can still work from what is no longer necessary. Next, organizations must over communicate these findings and new changes to stakeholders. They need to clearly understand how and why companies and organizations are useful in their “new-normal.” Lastly, changes need to be tracked and measured for effectiveness. Because of the natural butterfly effect of coronavirus, things don’t always work out as planned and that’s okay! Keeping a record of what worked or didn’t, understanding why, and communicating changes in a simple and reassuring way that affirms value is more important now than ever.
All of this is easier said than done, which is why getting an expert to lend a helping hand in making the process as seamless as possible can pay off in the long run. Whether businesses and organizations decide to seek help or rely on in-house talent, adapting to this new environment is what will keep them afloat during and after COVID-19.