Navigating lockdown while protecting your brand
Sarah Ellem reminds business owners of the importance of considering how your actions during lockdown can impact trust and reputation in the long term. The suddenness of New Zealand’s plunge into Alert Level 4 took everyone by surprise, after five months of normality (for Auckland) and much longer for the rest of the country. As […]
Sarah Ellem reminds business owners of the importance of considering how your actions during lockdown can impact trust and reputation in the long term.
The suddenness of New Zealand’s plunge into Alert Level 4 took everyone by surprise, after five months of normality (for Auckland) and much longer for the rest of the country.
As we navigate rapid changes in alert levels, one crucial factor is often overlooked by business owners – their brand. The way a business conducts itself during situations like this can be just as important as cashflow, affecting its social licence to operate and its ability to bounce back strong afterward.
No two businesses share exactly the same circumstances – current differences in COVID-19 Alert Levels have created a country of two halves – but wherever possible, it’s important to consider how your actions during lockdown can impact trust and reputation in the longer term.
Lockdown loopholes – smart move or brand poison?
The number eight wire approach should be taken with caution when it means you are seen as taking advantage of others. While it’s tempting (and understandable) for businesses to find new revenue streams during COVID-19, the question to ask is always “Will my customers or partners have the same views on what is fair or unfair?”
Some businesses sought to find a loophole in the rules that allowed them to operate under Level 4 while their peers in the same industry couldn’t. When a Taranaki hospitality establishment with an essential food outlet attached continued to provide hot meals via its neighbour, the backlash on social media was swift. The general consensus was that they were capitalising on the misfortune of others. Actions like these can impact the business’s reputation long after we return to Level 1. It’s worth considering what your brand stands for and whether your innovative idea is in keeping with that.
The question of whether to open under lower Alert Levels, when takings may be much lower than usual, is a trickier one to solve. Many hospitality and retail outlets do choose to open because of the value continuity and “being there” for customers creates for their brand. For some, opening may just be too difficult. At the same time, no one wants to see their customers move on to a new place. Tools like New Zealand-owned YonderHQ can help businesses understand customers better and engage with them even if they can’t be there in person.
Communicating in times of crisis
Another important brand consideration is how often you should communicate with your stakeholders, and what sort of tone to strike. Striking the wrong tone (too positive or too pessimistic) can also demotivate employees or seem out of step with what’s going on. It’s vital to listen to your stakeholders and adapt your communications to fit the mood and language they’re using. Listen first – then respond.
Share the facts and your reality without dismissing the challenges. This is the time for a little more detail to personalise your situation and build connections on a human level. However, refer to official sources of information when required and avoid using alarming language. We can often misinterpret people’s tone of voice in an email, so webinars, online meetings or chats are even more important.
Before you decide when or how often to communicate, the question to ask yourself is: is it really valuable to those you’re communicating with? And make sure you check all of your advertising bookings and update or adjust the message and timings if necessary.
The value of protecting your teams
The final consideration before you take any action is your employer brand. With unemployment low and borders still closed, it’s harder than ever to find the right talent. Brands that truly value their people are more likely to be loved and respected and recruiting in a tight market will be easier. Not just that, happy and engaged employees are great ambassadors for your business.
For some businesses, there may be no choice but to reduce employee numbers or salaries to get through. In Auckland and Northland, which have been particularly hard hit by tighter Alert Levels, the bounceback is likely to take much longer than in the rest of the country and options will be fewer. For those who do have the option, consider how your business is supporting your teams and communities to get through.
To rewrite the old saying, compassion is remembered long after the cost is forgotten.
Sarah Ellem is Manager, Marketing and Communications at Baker Tilly Staples Rodway Taranaki.