By Jennifer Jenkins, APR
In one of the most-remembered episodes from the ’90s sitcom “Friends,” Ross enlists Rachel and Chandler to help him get a new couch up a flight of stairs and into his apartment. As they work their way up the stairs, he repeatedly shouts “Pivot! Pivot! Pivot!” to his friends to maneuver the couch around the corners. That episode is not unlike our current situation — the stairs are the pesky coronavirus, the couch is our communications and Ross, Rachel and Chandler are us.
When it comes to communicating with employees, customers and suppliers, we have to pivot our messaging in order to adapt to our ever-changing environment with sensitivity, not only to the economic crisis, but also to the public health, government, social and information crises.
Now is a critical time for businesses to focus on growing market share and growing “mind share” through their communications. As you begin to think about what to say, how to say it and who to say it to, here are a few questions to ask yourself:
How should we position our business now and on the other side of this season to keep our employees and customers engaged?
How can we use our communications to gear up for launches, events and services that are delayed at the moment but will happen later?
How can we use our communications to help other business owners and our community?
What does our community need to hear right now?
While the world is in isolation, small businesses can use this time to find opportunities to engage, educate and enlighten. Our community is craving information and connectivity. If we use creative ways to connect with employees and customers, we will be top of mind now and when this uncertainty passes.
Think about what resources you have to offer that can benefit others and meet them where they are. If your audience is feeling uncertain, how can you reassure them? If they are longing for connection, how can you facilitate? Here are some ideas to get you started in brainstorming:
- Bars and restaurants famous for their cocktails and food can use social media channels to gather emails for a quarantine-friendly newsletter with tips and recipes on how to make cocktails and favorite foods at home from your own kitchen.
- Service businesses, like accountants and lawyers, can provide expertise and resources through teleconferences and video conferences to help employers navigate the crisis and prepare for the future.
- Tourist attractions that may currently be closed to the public can use online platforms to provide virtual experiences and educational opportunities. They can promote them through social media and email marketing to past customers as well as to teachers, who may want to share with their students in virtual learning settings.
- Event performances that may have been cancelled can leverage technology to entertain fans with past performances or exclusive in-isolation performances from artists for those signed up for e-newsletters and live social media events.
- Retail businesses can stay top of mind with handwritten notes to customers thanking them for their loyalty, offering private shopping experiences through video and enclosing a gift card or coupon to use later.
All businesses can promote community by using our resources and our voice to support other businesses — sharing curbside pickup services at retailers, to-go dining options at restaurants, non-profit organizations providing critical support services and much more.
Many local businesses are already flexing their operations and using communications to maintain employee and customer loyalty.
The Cheese Cottage took it’s knowledge of all things cheese to Facebook Live to show its followers how to create the perfect cheese board.
The Noble South shifted its farm-to-table dining experience to farm-to-your-own-table dining, with family-style meals — appetizer, salad, protein, two sides, dessert and a bottle of wine — all delivered curbside.
Naturally Strong with Nonie took her studio classes online with live, at-home workouts not only for adults but for kids, too.
Local boutique Objects offered live shopping experiences through FaceTime for customers to shop for Easter basket goodies.
Premier Medical Group’s Dr. Jay Neumann sent emails to patients promoting telehealth ENT appointments.
Scale up your business communications now and you will not only provide connection with your valued customers and community, but also build brand awareness to gain mind and market share when this crisis is over. What people will remember afterward is how your business made them feel during these uncertain times.
Jennifer Jenkins, APR, is founder and president of JJPR Agency, a public relations and marketing agency in Daphne.
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