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. While it is instinctive to want to move quickly and rush to speak and act, you can cause your brand serious harm if you make these three mistakes during the COVID-19 crisis.
Don’t ask the wrong questions
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 and it could drive the wrong cadence of 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 and when you pose this question to yourself or your management team you’ll find some 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 a free offering.
Don’t think about yourself only
It is instinctive to want to protect your company, your employees and your family, but a pay-it-forward mentality will help others who will remember you for your actions. For example, if you have historically supported animal charities, don’t suddenly abandon them. Maybe this is your moment to do more, or find partners to help you with a special project to help something for which you have shown a previous commitment and passion.
Worst of all, don’t be tone-deaf
A Frisco, Texas, homeowners association chided its residents about keeping their lawns trimmed and neat and made no mention of removing fines during a time when people are especially sensitive about their economic futures. Residents were quick to negatively comment on NextDoor.
Halfway around the world 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.
Locally and internationally, these serve as reminders of how a brand can lose trust by taking the wrong actions. As COVID-19 further unfolds, there will be more examples. Always remember your future reputation rests on not just what you do now, but how you do it.