If you’re paying attention, you know that the worlds of public relations and marketing are already different from what they were in March. It’s become clear that consumers have withstood a cosmic shift in priorities since the beginning of the global pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement. In just a few short months, what have we learned?
1. Be Ready To Respond
Perhaps one of the biggest changes in the industry caused by COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter protests is the expectation for brands and companies to have the right answer IN the moment. The age of carefully crafting a response over a period of a few days is gone.
Today, 70% of consumers expect brands to stand up for social issues, while 46% pay close attention to a brand’s social responsibility efforts when they buy a product. They want to hear your plan first. This is a lesson for anyone in leadership or communications. When the next crisis or social movement is brought into the spotlight, are you ready to react swiftly? Start meeting with stakeholders and outlining where your company stands on various issues. Role play scenarios and prepare statements in advance. Even if the situations never arise, the lesson here is to develop a proactive system internally that enables you to offer your audiences transparency and swift responses.
Additionally, you’ll want to have actions ready to accompany those statements. Back up your words with realistic plans that can be put into action. Plan for the short and long game and ways you can be both proactive and reactive.
2. Transparency Is Expected
We mentioned transparency, and it’s a critical lesson. There’s no longer room for compromise. Consumers do not have the patience for posturing. They expect transparency and perhaps above all things, accountability.
When Westbrook-based clothing manufacturer American Roots was facing an expected 70% loss of revenue in mid-March, they were immediately transparent in showing how they were shifting their business to create PPE. The company was sincere and open about their determination to not only help during the pandemic but to also keep their employees working.
In July, when one of their employees tested positive for COVID-19, American Roots confronted the issue head-on, releasing the following statement on Facebook:
To Our Family, Friends, Supporters, & Advocates:
We are writing to let you know that on Friday, July 10, an American Roots (AR) team member tested positive for COVID-19. Upon hearing this news, we immediately informed all American Roots employees, local and CDC State Officials, and promptly closed the factory at 1:30 p.m. for rigorous cleaning and sanitization in accordance with U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.
On Saturday, July 11, two additional team members tested positive for COVID-19. It’s important to note that all three team members contracted the virus from individuals who do not work at American Roots.
All three team members are under quarantine and doing well. We pray for swift recoveries.
As a precautionary step, American Roots will implement testing for all employees starting Tuesday, July 14; when the factory re-opens, and regular operations resume.
We are in close contact with local and state CDC officials to ensure the health and safety of our employees remains the top priority and proper shipping protocols are followed. All products are inspected, bagged and sealed, then boxed for maximum safety.
We want to say a heartfelt thank you to our employees and customers for their understanding as we work through this and continue to provide high quality, much needed PPE products during this trying time in our Nation’s history.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to call or email us:
Love to all.
Whitney Reynolds Waxman & Ben Waxman
Co-Owners American Roots
The response to their announcement was overwhelmingly positive.
The company continued to update consumers on their Facebook page, even after testing revealed an additional 8 employees had contracted COVID-19. The second posting drew over 180 positive reactions and more than 30 comments expressing support.
American Roots was not only transparent about the positive tests among their workforce, but they were also clear about what they were doing to address the issue. They detailed their cleaning plans and made it clear that employee safety was their first and foremost priority. In the end, their honesty and transparency paid off. And fortunately, their safety and sanitation protocols, in addition to quick action, kept the virus from further spreading throughout their workplace.
3. Increased Ability To Be Vulnerable
When it comes to many social issues, it’s entirely possible that you don’t know the answer, or aren’t sure how to address it. The beauty of the demand for transparency is that you are allowed to say you don’t know. Sure, you need to raise the game when it comes to sharing best practices and what you stand for. But if you’re struggling to find the right words, all you need to do is say so. If you’re honest about your values and struggle with how to respond correctly, your audience will tell you what they want and need from you.
4. Carry These Lessons Forward
The best way you can respond to the lessons we’ve learned from the pandemic and Black Lives Matter movement is to outline how to keep your company from going back to business as usual. You’ve probably heard that we won’t be going back to normal anytime soon, but will instead have to find a “new normal.” Let these lessons help guide you into your new normal.
Be prepared, transparent, and accountable, and it’s likely your company will head into its next challenge stronger than before.