When the virus is behind us, how will you rebuild?
The current crisis over COVID-19 will end. We don’t know the date, and we can’t predict the long-term damage or lasting impact, but it will end. And, after an unprecedented shutdown to the U.S. economy, soaring unemployment and the emergence of people who have felt alone, trapped and isolated, the end of COVID’s spread will no doubt spawn a world that is forever altered.
It’s a world, frankly, that will need structural healing, collective leadership and an unprecedented commitment to growth. The economy, the markets and the consumer will all need to be rebuilt.
So the question business executives, entrepreneurs and brand marketers all need to answer right now is: How is my company building this future?
National crises are a time when your values are more important than ever. All the encouragement, support and connection you’ve given your customers, clients and employees should absolutely continue. (Hopefully, it continues well after COVID-19 is a memory.) But you will also need to incorporate new themes, in ways that show how your company and team will help support others as we enter this new phase.
So where should your messaging focus be?
From ‘Being There’ to ‘Doing Something’
Right now, many brands have switched marketing or advertising campaigns to acknowledge the mandated separation from their customers, with the reminder that these companies remain ready to serve their clients when we get back to normal. Just being there for clients is helpful now, but the new phase will require more action. Smart brands will communicate about issues like when physical offices are re-opened, what new services they’re offering or how they’ve made changes to locations or business as a result of the lessons learned. Use language that reflects growth, building and creation.
While many companies have clients or customers across the country, they invariably maintain local presences. Showing what you’re doing locally is vital to maintaining the relationships you have with stakeholders. After all, the impact of COVID-19 on communities is going to vary by geography. New York and Kansas will have vastly different experiences and separate needs in the future. While there is a national role to play in the eventual recovery, this is the time to show that your company and teams are hometown heroes.
This Is a Team Effort
No one person or company can rebuild an economy alone. Rebuilding demands collaboration. Make sure you communicate the people and companies that you’re teaming up with. Don’t be afraid to highlight and honor situations where other companies helped you and your team get back on track. The shutdowns and social distancing were shared sacrifices. The rebound will be marked by examples of shared recovery.
Understand the Timeline
While there is no playbook here, the rebuilding phase will look a lot like what we experienced after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Though the government will allow businesses to reopen, restarting the economy won’t be like turning on a light switch. It will take months for businesses to regain momentum to even get close to where their revenues were prior to the crisis. That means it will take longer for hiring to resume, meaning there will be larger-than-typical unemployment rates over the next several quarters, lower average spending power and slower growth. Be prepared to communicate frequently, and for the long haul.
The biggest stress on the country has been the pervasive uncertainty of COVID-19’s impact on health, families and businesses in the future. Uncertainty won’t end when the virus shrinks away. Rather, that uncertainty will mutate into what our lives look like in the future. The good news is that you don’t have to predict that future.
You just have to make sure you’re stepping up to build it.