In my corona-crazed world, every morning requires careful email excavation. Because I have a neuroticism that makes me open every email before deleting it, I’ve read countless companies’ responses to our current global experience. Many seem to follow this formula:
- Google “COVID-19 customer email template.”
- Fill in the blanks with your respective company details.
- Close your eyes and pretend like this will all be over when you open them.
We can hope everything will snap back to normal in no time. But, it’s obvious that the arbitrary end-dates noted in aforementioned emotionless emails are nothing more than the age old trick we use when we’re trying to drag our leaden legs up a mountain, repeating the mantra “one more step, one more step, one more step…”
Please don’t take this as flippant. I spent large chunks of last week catatonic on my couch, bingeing podcasts and playing stupid games on my phone past the point of numbness in my right hand. I felt sorry for myself, worried about my family, and scared for my business. And in response, I allowed myself to be carried by a raging current of fear and anxiety. It didn’t help that the weather was relentlessly wet and gray.
Then a stormy Thursday morning transformed into a sunny afternoon. The temperature warmed to 70°F. We went outside. We walked. I felt grateful for the sun. We sat on our back porch that evening for the first time this spring. We drank a little rum and cuddled. We watched the sunset and listened to an online concert organized by Willie Nelson and his Luck gang. We ate dinner and watched something stupid on TV. I went to bed for the first time in weeks without anxiety butterflies waging an attack on my stomach.
I’d turned a corner. I wasn’t feeling immobilized. I was ready to change gears. But I only got there after crying my tears (Rhyme very much unintended).
Plenty of people are telling us to make the most of this period. To learn, grow, build and get ahead of everyone else when things return to normal! That’s great. And while I certainly agree, it’s also completely ok to wallow a bit. Let’s acknowledge the suck alongside all of the untapped opportunity that’s waiting at the other side of all of this.
Because this sucks. A lot.
But unlike normal, pre-pandemic life, when you could look around and see everyone else living their best social media lives, this time it sucks for all of us. I don’t care what kind of guru or tough-hearted optimist you are, this is a scary time for every single one of us. Even if your business is doing better than ever, you still have family members or a country to fear for. Even if you’re easily adjusting to virtual reality, you know extroverts that are fighting a serious struggle.
Let’s acknowledge the suck. Let’s be real with each other. Let’s be real about our fears. Not to galvanize bad behavior, but to make room for everyone’s experiences—be they good, terrible, or a Netflix-fueled coma.
By this point you may be wondering how waxing philosophical about fostering emotional inclusivity during global catastrophe has anything to do with building your brand in a time of crisis. But it is exactly what you should be doing to build your brand in a time of crisis. Authenticity is an essential ingredient when building a formidable brand. It was before the coronavirus, and it’s even more so now that the world is being turned upside down.
Science suggests that stress can be a unifying force, but it's not automatic. Simply living and making your voice heard during a stressful time won’t automatically build lasting bonds. Glazing over the pain doesn’t make it go away. Psychologists tell us that. So do serial killer documentaries.
It may feel easier to deny the discomfort and turn yourself into a channel of shallow clichés and refrigerator magnet quotes. Just know that putting on a happy face, drinking a spoon full of sugar, or sending out a generic COVID-19 email won’t cut it if you’re looking to build deep, lasting relationships with your community.
Dig in. Get real. Be human.
If you’re not sure how to do that or if you don’t feel strong enough to extricate yourself from the Facebook phantasmagoria, fret not. I'm working on some free content that'll give you ideas for how to use this time to create real, meaningful connections with your customers, colleagues, and communities.
Stay tuned, stay well, and STAY INSIDE (if you can)!