(Brand) Leadership Forged by Crisis
Difficult times “find” great leaders—individuals and companies alike. It will be those who forge relationships and build reputations through times of uncertainty that will position themselves to gain momentum when doubt fades. As Churchill said of Dunkirk, “Wars are not won by evacuations.”
Where there’s an action, there’s always a reaction. There will always be opportunities, even in times of crisis. History teaches us this: among the companies born in difficult times are the likes of General Electric, IBM, Microsoft, and Apple. These brands used down periods to hone their images and craft their messages so they could be poised for growth when consumer confidence returned. Granted, every brand is not their equal, but the strategy is sound for companies of all sizes… Zig when your competition zags, and speak up when they are silent.
Branding doesn’t take a break. It’s never on auto-pilot, and it’s not a luxury, so begin planning for how you want to be perceived when you emerge from the crisis. Is it the company that stood tall and kept forging ahead or the company that recoiled under the weight of uncertainty. These are times when (brand) leaders are defined. It’s an opportunity to grab your customers, audiences’ and employees’ attention and be authoritative. Instill confidence when it’s in short supply, inspire when it’s needed most, and offer hope for what is lying on the other side.
The underlying question is this: How do you want to be remembered after this historic and unprecedented event? As an organization of strength, authority, confidence? Seize the opportunity—character-defining events occur once a generation— to stand above the rest and give your customers (and employees) the steady hand that they so dearly seek in times of uncertainty.
Here are a few ways to begin positively influencing your brand image when resources are tight (and when they’re not):
Plan (and Adapt): As Dwight Eisenhower once said, “Plans are worthless, planning is everything.” Consider how you want to communicate and in what voice (tone). Build an outreach schedule that charts out your specific topics and how they will key into the social climate, but be willing to adapt as the situation changes. Evaluation and feedback are vital.
Audit: Review your customer and prospect lists to make sure that you’re reaching your target. It doesn’t matter how great your content and marketing strategy is if nobody sees it.
Target: Inexpensive test campaigns will help you identify the most effective marketing channels for delivering your messages. Find the ones that generate the most ROI and eliminate the rest.
Serve: Tap into your customer’s pain points in the midst of crisis. Is it remote communication, low productivity, poor supply chains, slow sales? With a little tactical empathy, you can identify how to best provide value (solutions).
Inspire: Evoke emotion in your communications through education, proven solutions, even levity. Instill confidence with regular content through a corporate blog or social media channels. Provide updates and inspiration that is so desperately missing as the majority of the market recoils.
Be visible (but measured): Frequency is a balancing act. As long as you offer unique value (knowledge, market intelligence, inspiration, levity), continue being visible. Once your messages become redundant, ordinary or uninspiring they’ll do more damage than good. Make sure your content strategy is robust enough to provide ongoing value.
With a little critical evaluation and planning, a content strategy for ongoing, relevant outreach can help provide confidence that the market desperately seeks. Be smart, on-point, visible and your organization will build trust… and reap the brand currency that’s available right now to any organization willing to stand up and take it.
Photos by Alfred Aloushy / William Moreland via Unsplash