In this period of uncertainty, it’s hard to know where to put your efforts. I appreciate those trying to advise and plan — I’m doing my best for myself and on behalf of my clients.
While many things are likely to change, one of the things that will remain true during and post-COVID-19 is that you’re only as strong as your people.
They are one of your biggest brand assets, although they don’t get talked about that way very often. Underneath the engagement statistics, retention metrics, and “love notes,” you’ll find human beings that have the ability to be inspired, make choices, show loyalty — and ultimately take action.
It’s always a good strategy to build relationships with your people, but right now, it’s critical.
Under the proverbial heading Your People, I would include three groups to focus on: your community, your team, and your partners.
These are the people who fund what you do. They can be customers at a for-profit or donors for a nonprofit.
They are already connected to your brand. They know who you are, and you (at least in the past) have done something valuable enough to find a place in their life.
As humans, we’re all dealing with change — some good, some bad, some unknown. Your brand has the ability to alleviate at least some of that disquiet.
But — and I cannot stress this enough — that doesn’t mean shipping out another remote work ebook. It means providing tangible value within the bounds of your brand’s role in their life.
Look at Eventbrite as an example. They are publishing guides and content about shifting to online events. They are also doing what they can to make the lives of event creators whose events were canceled a little better. It’s tangible, it’s valuable, and it’s specific to why these people connected to their brand in the first place.
If you don’t feel you have the bandwidth to do something additional, simply go above and beyond when interacting with your customers so that it makes their day a little easier and a little better.
Whatever you do, remember to be personal and human. We can all smell the bland disembodied company ‘we’ a mile away, and it’s just not going to fly right now.
Your people will be more selective coming out of this. They will want to give their dollar to the brands that had their back because they feel loyal to them. Make sure your brand is one they value.
Work matters. It gives both purpose and a paycheck. Don’t doubt the value of both, especially in a time of uncertainty.
I encourage brands to think about their people beyond the expense line they occupy on the balance sheet. I know and understand that changes in staff may be inevitable, b do what you can to protect what you can, and treat everyone with empathy.
Because people are what make your business, you’ll need inspired, committed people to get through this, and certainly to move forward post-COVID-19. Treating your team right will gain their respect and loyalty.
This is also a time to lead differently. People need the type of leaders who are going to highlight their contributions and connect their daily work to the border purpose.
As someone who works with purpose-driven organizations, I want to see this happen all the time, but it’s a more obvious need when everyone is virtual and isolated.
You can also rally your team to take action, whether that’s by doing something to support the efforts to fight the virus, or by upping your own game as a company. Both are valuable, and both can have long term gains for your brand.
Insert stakeholders, suppliers, agency partners here — these are the groups of people that support you.
Take a few minutes to meet with them. Don’t go in with an angle. Just find out how they’re doing. See what challenges they’re facing, as well as what potential opportunities they’re identifying.
Once you’ve checked in human to human (and I do hope you do that genuinely, or please, don’t do it at all), then you can start opening doors, turning over bookshelves, and looking under desks for new ways to collaborate.
By working together, you’ll make yourselves stronger.
These relationships also provide other avenues for taking action in potentially larger ways. These collaborations could lead to whole new levels of innovation or a larger scale response to COVID-19. Just remember to keep your actions aligned with your brand, or you risk landing on your ass with a loud thud.
Relationship building should always be a priority, but it is especially important right now. We are all looking for connection and for things we can depend on.
By focusing on your people, you’re choosing to invest in building trust and loyalty. That will give you a concentrated base to build on as we come out on the other side of uncertainty and start to shape the future.
You can also inspire your people to take action to improve themselves, your company, and the world around them.
It’s good for your brand, and when done right, it’s good for your people, too.