What’s the New Demand? (Pandemic and Your Brand)

What's the New Demand?We know that we’re looking at a new normal for business, at least in the short term. Once the economy “turns back on,” some businesses will not survive while a few lucky companies will be able to quickly begin doing the same work they have always done. Eventually, restaurants will reopen. Same thing with hotels. Services will be offered again (and hopefully I will be able to get a haircut.) Realistically, most of us will be operating at some reduced capacity.

Right now, many business owners wished they diversified their book of business or expanded the offerings that they sell. Now, while things are in flux, it is a good time to look at demand in your industry. What will it be in the future? What will consumers and business owners need? As we pull through this crisis, what can you offer to help them? Where’s the opportunity?

Can your company assist with the new demand? Can you reach more customers by embracing new platforms? Can you expand e-commerce? Can you help folks refinance debt? Restructure their business? Get money so they can scale up? Liquidate stuff?

If you are in a service business or professional services, you are likely operating on an amended schedule. Lots of things are stalled. What I’m saying is: You’ve got time. Use it to figure out how you can be less dependent on a few sectors or worse, any one part of the economy. Look for ways to meet the newly identified demand.

Once you have some ideas, take action. Revamp your marketing plan, update your website copy, think about launching a new entity. When the new normal arrives, hopefully sooner than later, be prepared to kick ass and meet the new demand.

Like many of you, I’m working from home. There are only so many carpool karaoke videos that I can watch in my downtime. So, I too have time and am working on meeting the new demand in the communications world. And believe me, I would enjoy a chance to discuss your plans as well. Consider me a sounding board while my next video buffers. Call me at 305-724-3903 and let’s figure out the new demand in your business.

–John

Need to Know (Pandemic and Your Brand)

Need to KnowAn article in today’s Wall Street Journal said that some people are already ignoring corporate COVID-19 emails. Since last week, there’s been an onslaught of them from businesses both large and small. Some are a bit tone-deaf, and some companies are taking corporate responsibility too far – so their customers are starting to ignore them.

As you might imagine, I don’t necessarily agree with the WSJ’s assessment as I think most businesses need to do a better job of communicating, and many are fighting for survival. To me, distributing a meaningful update is a good practice, even if it causes a little backlash – at least you know some people are paying attention. But it leads me to an important point: Are you telling customers what they need to know?

By now we all know what most businesses are doing: people are working from home, hand-washing, drive-through/pickup, adjusted hours, social distancing, etc. At this point, we have to rely on our fellow business owners to do the right thing, and we are essentially giving everyone a checkmark for corporate responsibility. This crisis is moving so fast that we need to communicate the next thing, not last week’s thing, so you should only be focusing on what people need to know about your business.

What do they need to know?

  • If you see customers at your place of business, they need to know your hours and how you are “delivering” your product or service. This goes for essential and non-essential businesses, alike.
  • That you are a phone call or email away and that you will talk to them anytime, day or night. (By the way, please publish your phone number and your email address. This is not time to rely on a website form. Give out your phone number.)
  • They really need to know how you can help them. Are you offering a product or service they need right now? Can you help them get a small business loan? How to restructure their business? Can you offer a great deal on a product or service? (Gas prices and interest rates will likely never be lower, for example.)
  • How you can help them be ready to re-launch once the COVID-19 crisis ends.

What don’t they need to know?

  • That you’re observing the crisis and making decisions on a day-to-day basis. Guess what, that’s everybody.
  • Things unrelated to your business that have become givens in the past week. For example, we are all deeply in praise of healthcare workers and first responders. We all know we are indebted.
  • Overly optimistic projections about when things will turn around.

This crisis has changed how we do business, and it seems like it is evolving by the minute. Last week, I was practically begging folks to communicate, but this week, I’m saying that you better do it smarter. Start by telling your customers what they need to know.

Let me know if I can help you turn this crisis into a marketing opportunity. If you have questions or just need a sounding board, give me a call at 305-724-3903.

–John

Can You Deliver? (Pandemic and Your Brand)

Can You Deliver?When I was a kid growing up in western New York, we had an egg man. Once a week, he delivered eggs to our house, carrying them in a charming little basket. My best guess is the eggs came out of a chicken that morning. Talk about “farm to table!” Some folks older than me might remember when milk was delivered daily, and my grandparents told tales of icemen delivering blocks of ice to pre-refrigeration iceboxes.

Such items were delivered out of necessity. During this outbreak, we need to talk about delivery on a couple of different levels.

The first one is literal. Can you deliver your product or service in this current environment? The answer is probably yes, but with virtual tools, some savvy and albeit limited personal contact. For at least the next few weeks, we need to start delivering our goods and services in new ways.

Restaurants and bars are feeling the big pinch, but many have already started to mobilize ways to offer take out or drive-through services.  Chick-fil-A, the kings of drive-through, have already shifted their stores to 100% drive-through. Banks and credit unions are doing the same.

Can you physically deliver your product? Perhaps your margins are too thin, but what if you offered free delivery with larger orders?

Can you virtually deliver your product? Two weeks ago, which now seems like months ago, I gave four presentations by webinar that I would have preferred to do in person. (Once you get a taste of an audience as a professional speaker, it’s hard to go back.) But I learned that some of my material can be delivered virtually with equal effectiveness.

The second type of delivery is more metaphorical. Commerce must continue, even as the damn virus seems debilitating to those of us who have had nary a symptom. We all must step up. We all have to work harder and smarter.  I will say it again: Commerce must continue.

(Believe me, I know it’s tough. The virus is scary and fear can grip you in previously unseen ways.)

We have to keep on pushing and within the bounds of social distancing, potential quarantines and lockdowns.

This means that you have to deliver motivation to your people. You have to deliver opportunity for workers. You have to deliver results for your customers.

Over the past few days, I’ve been working with many of my clients on messaging regarding COVID-19.  And I’m observing some amazing stories of “delivery” that I will be sharing in the coming days. If you need help with your messaging or just want to talk about how you can deliver your product or service. Let me know.

–John

 

PR Lessons from 2017

The past 12 months have been fascinating in the world of public relations. We have a president who communicates off-the-cuff each morning to his more than 45 million Twitter followers, and for the first time in at least eight years, most of us can name the White House Press Secretary. Communications from the White House has never been more high profile. We also learned this year that no amount of PR wizardry or spin control can save executives, even at the highest levels, who are guilty of sexual misconduct. Here are a few main PR lessons from 2017, when perception and reputation ruled the day.

Words Matter

Each day, major news networks focus part of their daily coverage on what President Trump tweeted that morning. Whether you agree or disagree with him, he is showing that he can control part of the news cycle and that words still matter. Trump’s tweets have a huge impact on how he is perceived. His word choices and tone are interpreted by both his supporters and detractors, and he often makes mistakes that cost him on the perception front. He recently “called-back” a tweet, claiming it was instead written by his lawyer. Again, it doesn’t matter what side you are on, but even in this age where visuals and short videos dominate, words still matter.Read More

College Reputation Arms Race – And Puppies

College Admissions Arms RaceThe university admissions process is a big topic around my house these days as my daughter is prepping for college entrance exams.  Higher education has never been such a big business, and the college decision grows more complicated as rankings proliferate from well-known media outlets and unknown blogs alike.  Questions are beginning to swirl around our atmosphere of friends, colleagues and family members.  Where can your kid get in?  What universities, if any, are affordable?  What defines a good college reputation these days?  More questions than answers.

One thing I know for sure is that many of the nation’s thousands of colleges and universities are engaged in a reputational arms race.

One of the main battlegrounds is intercollegiate sports, and Forbes and the Center for College Affordability and Productivity recently completed a study about it.  (Given my obsessive relationship with college football, it’s no wonder I found this interesting.)  If you follow college sports, you have heard about universities bulking-up their sports programs with the goal of raising the school’s overall profile.  Nike founder Phil Knight famously donates millions to his beloved University of Oregon with one of the indisputable strategies being that better sports teams (and very flashy uniforms) will increase the overall reputation of the university.  Financier T. Boone Pickens has made similar donations to Oklahoma State University, and I’m sure there are many other examples.Read More