We won’t lie, friends—the world as we knew it is over.
Well, at least for the time being.
The Stay-at-Home mandate affecting Greene County has had a dramatic impact on businesses across the Greater Springfield area, and we’re just at the start. Those not considered essential by the mandate have shuttered their windows and locked their doors for thirty days. This has had a profound and (yes, we’re going to use the word) unprecedented impact on the local, national, and global economy. But since ADsmith is a local business with (mostly) local clients, we’re going to focus on how this impacts businesses in our area.
Since ADsmith opened its doors nearly 20 years ago, we have embraced the philosophy of telling clients what they need to hear, which is not always necessarily what they want to hear—whether that be public perception of their industry or business, practices they need to reevaluate, revise, or implement, or something else. While our office may be working remotely for the foreseeable future, our philosophy remains as steadfast as anything else.
So we’re going to break the mold and tell you the truth you probably don’t want to hear.
These next weeks and months are going to reshape the way we think about business, marketing, and society in general. There’s a reason that we keep hearing the word “unprecedented” when discussing what’s going on, and that’s pretty much because, for the modern world, this situation is just that. The last pandemic of this nature occurred just a little over a century ago—a safe distance away with ten solid decades of medical advancement, vaccines, and platitudes separating that world from this one. Odds are, before COVID-19 became headline news, most people had never heard of the Spanish Flu—and if they had, they likely couldn’t readily recite things like the dates, duration, or the lasting impact it had on society.
We have a lot going for us that those who lived through the Spanish Flu did not. Better healthcare is a given, but we’re also more connected today than at any point in human history. We’re still talking, still communicating, still needing and buying, and once the pandemic is officially behind us, we’ll also be navigating a new world together.
There are certain events that divide the social conscious with a clear before and after. For instance, those of us who were alive long enough to remember the way life was before 9/11 have a far-greater understanding of just how much things changed after that morning. Following 9/11, Employee Assistance programs expanded, companies’ social awareness and volunteerism became a feature of work culture, and entrepreneurs were to follow their dreams rather than stick with the safe and familiar. The way we viewed work and life evolved on the spot, and after the world is on the other side of COVID-19, we can’t unlearn things we learned. Every step we take in business, recreation, and life will in some way be informed by what we experienced during this crisis.
So how will businesses adapt?
First, businesses now feeling the full brunt of the pandemic will likely find it imperative to come up with an emergency contingency plan for life after COVID. Contingency plans for businesses are somewhat what retirement plans are for individuals—either you are super on top of things and counting every penny, or you believe you’ll get to it tomorrow. It’s not that you don’t understand the importance and necessity, but with so much to do that needs to be done pronto, you don’t have time to worry about a vague future. That vague future in which a contingency plan might be needed is now, and no business-leader will want to be caught unawares again.
Crisis management plans help businesses keep their doors open when emergencies occur. Ongoing communication with employees and customers is essential—first, by offering reassurance and, second, by developing innovative strategies to keep the business relevant.
These plans are often complicated and nuanced, and for many businesses now that are closed due to being nonessential, survival may well depend on their ability to transition storefronts to a digital audience. Businesses without a digital presence, or lacking a digital interface with which customers can interact, may well prioritize putting such a system in place. Retail businesses will want to ramp up (or develop) their online presence. Service providers not considered essential, like salons, masseuses, and pet groomers, may also refine their online presence to make it easier for people to purchase gift cards, or perhaps attend paid online workshops designed to help fill a void that can’t be filled in-person.
The messages you hear from brands will likely also take a dramatic tonal shift once we’re all allowed outside again. Businesses in the food-service industry might well reshape their messaging to focus on cleanliness and sanitation. Reviews regarding unsafe practices performed by employees and witnessed by customers will likely be taken much more seriously, which could make or break reputations.
The way businesses respond to complaints related to unsafe practices could be the deciding factor in whether or not that business survives. Just as national security was at the forefront of the social conscious following 9/11, the focus on public health will not dwindle once the pandemic is behind us.
This isn’t limited to the food service industry. From automotive to home service, B2B to retail, how each company prioritizes the health and wellbeing of their customers and employees will be a branding building block in ways we haven’t seen before.
To that end, employee healthcare and wellness will likely become an even larger recruitment tool than in the past. While healthcare is one of the hallmarks found in most benefits packages, this crisis has made it even more apparent just how important access to affordable care is to all people. We’ve all heard stories about certain employers that insist employees come to work even if they’re sick, or act otherwise suspicious or begrudging when an employee calls in. Public health will remain in the forefront of the social conscious for a long time after COVID, and those businesses that do not prioritize employees’ health might find themselves fighting to stay open. Remember, this is still the digital age, and everything gets out eventually.
The good news is that these are all things that businesses that are currently grounded can begin work on immediately. From contingency plans to web content, to reshaping the entire way your company’s internal and external processes are positioned to support your infrastructure in times of uncertainty. And you don’t have to do it alone. ADsmith Marketing & Advertising has developed crisis management plans for clients in the past to help mitigate periods of uncertainty, and while we’re all working from home at the moment, plans are being developed for clients, existing and new, to help weather the storm.
Each plan is unique, but key elements are consistent:
- Accept the challenge of your current reality and embrace it as an opportunity to adapt and innovate.
Remain focused on people, starting with your team and your current customers.
- Provide clear, transparent communication. Remember that listening can be more powerful than talking.
- By harnessing the collective knowledge of your team, you may develop creative ideas that can increase your value to your customers.
Remain committed to your WHY.
- How you act/react in times of crisis says more about your business than advertising can ever communicate.
ADsmith, which turns 20 this year, offers a full team of marketing professionals who work together to provide the wide range of skills required to effectively brand—starting with research, strategic marketing plan development, brand development, graphic design, video production, digital services, public relations and traditional media analysis and placement. ADsmith works with clients of all sizes and industries, and is staffed to serve as an out-sourced marketing department or as extra support for companies who have in-house marketing departments. ADsmith is committed to providing national-level quality for clients at the local and regional levels.
As we move forward in this new world, ADsmith would be glad to help you best position your business to be ready for the post-COVID world. The landscape will be very different, and preparing for that landscape will be a crucial part of remaining in front of customers and ahead of competitors.