Contributed by Amy Power, founder of the PR and social media firm The Power Group.
Reputations are won and lost during times of crisis. That’s good news if you are a brand that can step in to solve a piece of the pandemic problem by feeding first responders or creating a program to help hourly workers. But for other organizations, it may not be so obvious.
It is instinctive for most entrepreneurs to move quickly and rush to speak and act, but you can cause your brand serious harm if you don’t consider these tips.
DON’T ask the wrong question.
If you and your management team are asking yourself, “What should we say? What should we do?” then you are asking yourself the wrong question—which may lead to the wrong actions.
In his book, The Agony of Decision: Mental Readiness and Leadership in a Crisis, author Helio Fred Garcia says the right question to ask in any crisis is, “What would reasonable people appropriately expect a responsible organization or leader to do when facing this kind of situation?”
This is the place to start. When you pose this question to yourself or your management team, you’ll find paths you might not have considered. For example, the answer may be prudent measures to ensure public safety, an apology, a new way of serving customers or something free.
EO members, be sure to check the EO COVID-19 Communications Centre for the latest webinars and resources from the EO community. We’re in this together. #EOTogether
DON’T think only about yourself.
You want to protect your company, your employees and your family, but a pay-it-forward mentality may help others who will remember you in the long term.
For example, if you have historically supported animal charities, don’t suddenly abandon them. Maybe this is your moment to do more. Find partners to help you with a special project or find new ways to support your long-standing interests.
Worst of all, DON’T be tone-deaf.
In Frisco, Texas, a homeowners association chided its residents about keeping their lawns trimmed and neat. They made no mention of waiving fines during a time when people are especially sensitive about their economic futures. Residents were quick to negatively comment on NextDoor, an online hub for exchanging helpful neighborhood information, goods and services.
Meanwhile in Scotland, the Coylumbridge hotel near Aviemore, part of the Britannia Hotel Group, issued a surprising letter to employees which said: “Taking the latest government advice, this letter is to confirm that with effect from 19 March 2020, your employment has been terminated and your services are no longer required. You are asked to vacate the hotel accommodation immediately, returning any company property.”
Amidst the coronavirus crisis, hourly workers were immediately homeless until another hotel stepped in to help the displaced workers.
These tips serve as valuable reminders of how a brand can lose trust by taking the wrong actions. As this COVID-19 unfolds, there will be more examples. Don’t forget: Your future reputation rests on what actions you take today.
Amy Power joined the EO Dallas chapter in 2015.