The way forward

Writing on Medium in April, Julio Vincent Gambuto called the COVID-19 pandemic “The Great Pause.” The treadmill has stopped, giving us “a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see ourselves and our country in the plainest of views.”

The pandemic is a tragedy. It’s also a chance for us to look back at the way things were and reassess what’s to come, a moment to identify what we want to keep, what we want to discard, and what we’ve learned that will reshape the way we live in the world.

Communications has always been a catalyst for change. In a time when the most fundamental aspects of our lives are being reinvented — how we work, create connections and express our ideas — the opportunity for brand communicators is to harness the power of communications to fuel progress, bring hope and create opportunity.

86%

feel corporations and brands have a responsibility to take a leadership role to provide assistance to consumers as part of their response to the COVID-19 pandemic

83%

of Brands in Motion respondents believe brands could be capable of providing stability



77%

of purpose leaders think brands have a moral obligation to engage with a societal issue when it impacts their business


Communicating with humanity during a crisis

Good communications brings understanding, fosters compassion and shows people a new way forward. It illuminates our shared humanity.

Humanity is the red thread across so many examples of powerful storytelling, influence and communications all around us: Greta Thunberg turning anger into action and inspiring others through her clear and simple language, Andrea Bocelli’s singing to an empty Duomo over Easter weekend, or the many companies taking brave steps — from Microsoft, which recently outlined one of the most progressive climate change plans in the corporate world, to McDonald’s simple gesture of “Thank You” meals to recognize front-line workers.


A BRAND'S VALUES ARE ITS NORTH STAR

Where do we start in a global pandemic? With authenticity, values and strong strategic communications. Read the blog post ​»


Guiding principles for communicating during the pandemic

As we take this moment to reassess our collective communications approach, it’s helpful to codify a set of principles to guide our actions, decisions and ideas moving forward. 

1. Communicate from a place of purpose, clarity and empathy to employees, customers and stakeholders.

2. Provide predictability in terms of potential impact to products, services and business operations.

3. Prioritize your external messages knowing there is less room for consumption. While hard, “letting go” is essential.

4. Find the intersection points between your story and what the world needs.

5. A new game plan is required. Communicating virtually (at scale) is new territory for all and requires new approaches.

6. Get ahead — create an advance team to reimagine future communications motions.

Principles in action

Purpose, clarity and empathy

Intel leaned on its purpose with a $60M commitment to patient care technology, scientific research, online learning and local community support.

Providing predictability

Khan Academy, a provider of online tools and resources for students, acted quickly, creating resources for school districts and parents to help them provide stability to early learners.

A new game plan

Microsoft pivoted its Build 2020 conference to an all-digital event — and opened it up to anybody wanting to join the stream. More than 200,000 developers and professionals registered.

Your story and what the world needs

Mattel created a line of action figures to honor front-line workers and dedicated all net proceeds to #FirstRespondersFirst, an initiative benefitting first responder healthcare workers.

Using data to find the human story

Consumers are anticipating long-term impacts to their routines, finances and spending habits. These uncertain times have reshaped the media landscape, and issues-led coverage is squeezing out other stories. Events are canceled, leaving brands to reimagine product launches, celebrations and milestone moments. More than ever, we need a hard-and-fast understanding of today’s communication climate.

Data and analysis (both qualitative and quantitative) can give us the insights to ensure we aren’t simply operating in day-to-day mode. As markets begin to reopen, it’s more important than ever to have the time and space to forecast business and communications developments.

WEATHERING COVID-19 — AND WHATEVER COMES NEXT

A strong business continuity plan goes a long way toward stability in a crisis. WATATAWA’s Simon Pangrazio breaks down what BCP means for comms. Read the blog post ​»



Events are canceled, leaving brands to reimagine product launches, celebrations and milestone moments."

How can I use data to predict the intersection points between my brand story and what the world needs and craves?

How do I define relevance for my brand, products and services based on the changing world around us?

What is the impact to my collective industry and what does that tell us about what’s ahead?

How must the culture and internal processes of my organization change, shift and respond if we want to move quickly enough to stay relevant?

How do I bring my internal stakeholders along on the journey of a new way of showing up in the world?


Mobilizing an advance team to tackle some of the core questions for your business is key. Without a commitment focusing on the future, inertia wins and everyone falls back to fighting the latest fire. A cross section of stakeholders from HR and engineering to sales, marketing and communications will have the breadth of perspective to help interpret your brand’s impact, opportunity and path forward.

MOVING FORWARD IN CHINA

In many ways, China is a step ahead of the world when it comes to safely reopening. How are Chinese brands navigating the earliest stages of recovery in this market? Read the white paper ​»

 

The role of communications during a global crisis

For a business to be successful, storytelling must sit at the center of everything it does. And of course, every story, every executive platform, every campaign must directly impact the business. From a new feature announcement to a broad-based brand purpose platform, it’s the human impact that matters. Without that cohesive, human story running through every stakeholder touchpoint, your brand storytelling runs the risk of feeling fragmentary — or worse, tone deaf.

Your communications function provides a red thread and a catalyst for change. Communications must be at the center of your brand’s recovery planning, and a winning strategy will lead with purpose and humanity.

Your next five reads

1. Business Continuity in the Era of COVID-19 – A white paper about how Chinese brands are navigating the earliest stages of recovery in that market, by WE Red Bridge.

2. The moment of truth is here. Authenticity is the way forward – A blog about how a brand’s values are its north star during the pandemic, by WE Global COO and President of International Kass Sells.

3. Business Unusual: Limiting Disruption Through the Outbreak – A blog on business continuity planning, by WATATAWA’s Simon Pangrazio

4. Making Us Better – An op-ed on brands leading with purpose during COVID-19, by WE Founder and Global CEO Melissa Waggener Zorkin.

5. Brands in Motion 2019 – A useful snapshot of consumer and B2B decision-makers’ sentiment toward brands and industries going into the pandemic.

 

WE has been helping brands from small biotech firms to Fortune 500 giants put communications at the center of their recovery strategies. Now is the time to be human to the core. Now is the time to be a catalyst for change.