the formidably revealing power of a crisis for a brand

crisis management and crisis communication are forms of art. how else would you define a process that involves trying to absorb shock waves of different magnitudes while simultaneously looking for viable, quick solutions to the troubles that they caused? much like firefighters feeling the threat of danger, but going inside burning houses to save lives anyway. it’s something that requires levelheadedness and maturity, full empathy and creativity. it’s the moment when our brains should be firing up at their maximum capacity in terms of analysis and proper response.  

we are currently living through a crisis, often called “the crisis of our time” due to the unprecedented measures taken at a global level. we are witnessing massive lockdowns, panic, fear of the unknown, uncertainty, and confusion. I don’t need to list everything that is going wrong in this moment, because I am very sure you are oversaturated by such information anyway. at the same time, what is important to keep in mind is that low points such as these allow us to show up in fresh, genuine, useful ways. it is during the worst of times that we humans can bring out our best, when we call for our humanity to show.  

the same rule applies for brands.  

in past weeks, many companies, organizations, and individuals have tried to find their place in the ongoing crisis. noticing how brands are coming up with certain answers to today’s challenges and how these answers are landing (or not) with audiences represents a goldmine in terms of crisis management and communication learnings. these stories of brand trials and errors give us an insight into how we should go about our own brand – from corporate to personal – in such troubled times. and the best part is that all these lessons will still be just as valid outside of the coronavirus pandemic moment.  

in showing up to today’s challenges, some brands got it right. some got it horribly wrong.  

instead of immediately going for the bigger, flashier, more out-of-the-box ideas that won the crowd during this crisis, I would like to turn to a more quiet example. this company, with its discreet and humble approach, serves as the perfect “yes! that is how you do it!” illustration in terms of brand affirmation. 

GrooveHQ is one of those companies which have gotten it right. what they do on a daily basis is provide customer support solutions to different types of stakeholders. I personally appreciate them (from afar) for their honest and useful content on their blog. their brand approach to the COVID-19 reality can be best analyzed from one of their latest posts called “47 insanely practical work-from-home tips from our 100% remote team”. in their crisis communication efforts, they tried following some simple mental steps, like:  

  1. they asked themselves how they can be part of the solution during these troubling times. this key question opened the door to some insightful self-exploration regarding what they stand for. they started looking at what their professional strengths are. they soul-searched. and they didn’t try to push their role into the savior-corner regarding the crisis. 
  2. the GrooveHQ people connected the dots between what they found as their real-and-relevant contribution points and what people from outside of the organization would need. in this case, sharing their specific pieces of advice about working remotely seemed to be the most appropriate and useful way to help. 
  3. they matched their offered help with their values. GrooveHQ tries to be this down-to-earth, no-nonsense working place, that focuses on the customer and their needs (if they don’t do it, who will?). their blog post initiative around remote work was low-key, yet tasteful. this attitude matched their internal culture, which encourages the same kind of behavior. if they would have tried to do otherwise, the move would have felt out of character, and thus, out of brand. instead, from the way the blog post is structured to the CEO adding his personal POV to the mix (plus what he wrote enforces the brand ethos even more) – all these tiny decisions build up the case for what the GrooveHQ brand is really all about.  
  4. they knew where to place themselves in this whole COVID-19 situation, emulating a sort of Goldilocks effect (not too much, not too little, but just right).  

this sort of authenticity and brand story coherence wins. as humans, we trust and admire something or somebody that is true to themselves. by using its brand, culture, and people as a cauldron to come up with a real, helping initiative, GrooveHQ managed to be useful, while at the same time making a point for their brand’s purpose and DNA. 

what made the difference for Groove HQ’s brand appropriateness in this chaotic time? 

the answer is simple: their agenda. not as in the calendar where one schedules meetings, but as the intention set behind each action and plan. these intentions become reality through the specific measures which end up being taken. these, in the end, contribute to establishing your brand identity. it is what the GrooveHQ team did when they decided to leverage on their remote work expertise as their proverbial Mjölnir. they had a choice, just like everyone else: they could have taken advantage of the situation for their own benefit, or just genuinely help.  

in these action-packed times, no brand is left unjudged (because most places that are dealing with the COVID-19 situation are adopting an “all-hands-on-deck” policy). start thinking about how your brand walks its talk during these days, how it should manage this crisis moment. ask yourself “how could we help” more than “how do we make the best out of it for our image” (there are plenty of those examples too in the world, but they ain’t pretty).  

you can even try this as a reflective exercise. for example, at the moment, when you think about those two questions (help versus image/promotion), which one tips your brand’s scale more? the best position you could be in right now would be that of scale-equilibrium. that would mean finding that sweet spot where both your brand and society can benefit from your actions. get creative, and see how you can transform that sweet spot into a reality. 

one thing is for sure: your intentions, whether altruistic or selfish, will be seen by others. I have seen GrooveHQ’s, others will see other brands. the best part is that you can always choose how you will show up.   

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