What did I do to myself? Publicly committing to a series about building your brand during a time of crisis feels like a lofty promise. I don’t want to give you the impression that I have it all figured out. The narrative of Part 1 isn’t a lovely, clean, pre-packaged story of getting knocked down and standing back up. There is no guaranteed 5-step action plan that we can use to shield ourselves from the difficult path ahead.
These times aren’t neat. And they don't easily fit our culture’s happy-ending-obsessed narrative.
We have a long way to go. Right now I feel good. I feel creative. I feel some clarity about what effective communication during a crisis can look like. But I’m not an expert on rocking the coronavirus catastrophe like a champ. I'm just a part of the statistics that can only be bothered to make the camera-visible part of me presentable for webinars (see photo for evidence - top-half: business, bottom half: exercise pants and wool socks).
Instead, I’d like to explore how we can try to make this time meaningful. We’re all out of our comfort zones. We’re left without many of the trappings we use to insulate, distract, and create distance from ourselves and from each other, even when we’re in close physical proximity. How can we dig in deeper than we’re used to? How can we connect beyond superficialities?
While I’m not an expert, I can offer some thoughts, some things I’ve used this time to ponder. My observations of people and brands that are doing it "wrong," and others that are doing it “right.”
Part 1 is about authenticity, but so are however many parts that follow. It’s all about lowering your defenses, being vulnerable, and connecting. It’s not a level you conquer in your journey through Quarantine Quest. Authenticity is at the heart of it all. Everything else is just technique.
If you didn’t read the Scientific American article that I linked to last week, here’s a quote that neatly sums it up:
“Acute stress may help remind us of a fundamental truth: our common humanity. Understanding our shared vulnerability — life makes no promises — may be frightening, but it can inspire kindness, connection, and desire to stand together and support each other. Acute stress, as unpleasant as it may be, may also be an opportunity to experience the most beautiful aspects of life: social connection and love.”
So before you go about drafting your weekly company coronavirus communiqué or typing out an-emotionally-compartmentalized update to your email list, pause. Take some time to ponder who your brand really is. Lay the foundations that you can use to connect purposefully and personally.
When we work with brands, whether we’re preparing for a new launch or a revamp, we ask a lot of questions. Everything from personifying the brand as a human to getting clear on the company’s larger values and mission. These are essential details to know in order to effectively craft copy that captures the brand’s unique voice. And they're just as essential for guiding your correspondence in the times of coronavirus.
You can't fake authenticity. So if you're going to get real, you need to start by acquainting yourself more intimately with who your brand is deep down inside. If you're unsure where to start, use these questions as a jumping off point:
*Warning: If you've never done this, it can feel a little overwhelming. That's ok. Do it anyway!
- What is your mission? Why do you do what you do? What problems are you solving? How are you making the world a better place?
- What makes you unique? What is your story? Why would people choose you over the alternatives? Why are you the one for the job?
- What are your core values? What are you unwilling to compromise on? What resolve is worth going the extra mile to preserve?
- How would you describe your brand as a person? How do they dress? How do they want to be perceived by others? Are they serious or free-spirited? Etc.
- How does your brand communicate? Do you have a sense of humor? What kind of language do you use?
- What’s your emotional appeal? How do people feel when they think about you?
- Who is your dream customer? What do they care about? What are their interests? What other brands do they identify with?
This isn’t an exercise to rush through. And it’s not something to do once, check off your list, and file away on an external hard drive (friendly reminder to backup your computer). Let this be a tool to guide the decisions you make, the things you write, and the products you create. Add to it. Revise it. Use it.
And once you’re clear on the answers to these questions, I challenge you to be bold enough to share a little more. But more on that next time.
Until then, if you have ideas, please share them. And even if you don't, let’s start a conversation. Let’s connect.