If your organization truly lives its brand, now’s the time to prove it.
As Coronavirus fears create an upward spiral of anxiety around the world, employee morale erodes. Connecting your brand values with pandemic preparedness can help quell the underlying anxiety employees feel from just being at work. It can unite employees around a common purpose and boost morale through enhanced camaraderie.
The Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers provides excellent strategies for pandemic workplace planning. But it stops short of tapping the power of your band values to assuage anxiety and “mother-up” the conversation with assurances.
Drive crisis communications with brand values
For example, if your brand values emphasize authenticity and honesty, be sure to be as transparent and sincere as possible with your communications and not beat around the bush. By the same token, be sure to temper hard information with softer values, such as caring or empathy, purpose, or esprit de corps. Consider delivering messages via video versus emails so people can be reassured by body language. With the right planning, these messages can continue in the same reassuring format even if employees have to begin working remotely.
Immediate supervisors and department heads should be armed with values-infused preparedness information and situation updates for daily “huddles.” Even updates with scant information can be comforting, especially coming from a close and trusted leader. If there’s not much to report, interpret the strength of your brand’s values as a guide for behavior in crisis. This can create resolve and clear thinking in the face of fear.
Include Customer Care in the Discussion
Even customer-first values can be tapped. For example, emphasize to employees that delivering the brand includes protecting customers by being level-headed, practical, and innovative in this unprecedented situation. Relate any brand values possible to customer care in crisis.
An underlying benefit of branding crisis communications is that it can pave the road ahead for deeper trust, employee retention, and job satisfaction. There are few things more powerful than stories “from the trenches” to unite employees after the fact. And they’ll remember that the brand values are a big part of what got them through the crisis together.
Employers are the Most Trusted Institution
In a video promoting the Edelman 2019 Trust Barometer Study, CEO Richard Edelman concisely states the importance of keeping employees informed: “Employers are the most trusted institution in America… and they’re expected to empower employees with information to contribute to the discussion. Employees are your first order of business… and if they’re informed, they’ll speak on your behalf.”
Never has this been more true than in times of crisis.
Though it can be argued that branding crisis communications can be viewed as capitalizing on crisis, this author believes that it is one of the most important functions of a brand: inspiring belief in the face of uncertainty. In this case, it is the belief that everything is going to be alright.
Be safe and stay healthy.
Founder, GroPartners Consulting