Purpose At Work: 21 Ways to Protect Health and Your Business During COVID-19

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These are unprecedented and extraordinary times we live in. The top priority is keeping yourself and your loved ones safe. Stay supportive of others and do your best to keep a positive attitude. At the same time, leaders are questioning how to do business during the coronavirus. How do you plan for the future? What will retail look like? How will you recover?

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Now is a time to focus on your higher purpose. Make sure you strengthen your communications and execute a strategic plan. These times will pass but they will take innovation, perseverance and collaboration. Here’s what you can be doing now to get over this challenge in the best way possible.

What your brand must do during the times of the virus:

  1. Meet the gravity of the moment: Challenging times call for active leadership. Make sure your community knows you are taking COVID-19 seriously by showing up for others. A company setting an example is Nike. The shoemaker pledged $15 million to relief efforts for the communities where employees live. Communicate with your core stakeholders and make sure they know that you are thinking of their wellbeing during these times and support them however you can.
  2. Respond responsibly: Take a responsible stance by making sure your messaging is sensitive to what is going on in society. Brands like Coors Light, Hershey and KFC are showing up by removing previously recorded spots that seem insensitive to the global conversation. KFC’s “Finger Lickin Good” campaign has a different connotation now. Appropriately, they pulled the ad. Make sure your operations and communications consider peoples health, wellbeing and new social distancing practices. That means social media, television, print, radio or otherwise.
  3. Forgo fanfare: Despite the need to maintain relationships with your customers and fans, now is not the time to host events. We need to respect public health issues. Do the right thing and stay home. A company that wasn’t considerate of the business during the pandemic is Disney World. They held a farewell party before closing down because of the virus. Don’t disregard the responsible choice for short-term benefits, no matter how “on brand” it is. We need to minimize human contact, pull back and prioritize everyone’s health.
  4. Offer relevant services and relief: Think about what you can do as a short-term value add to your consumers while they are in their homes. Your customers will appreciate your generosity and reward you with goodwill. T-Mobile is heading the call and providing upgrades free of charge for subscribers for 60 days. LinkedIn is helping businesses and job seekers transition during this time. Retailers like Target, Walgreens, CVS and Walmart are working to administer drive-thru coronavirus testing in their parking lots. We will get through these times. The companies that help others will be remembered as leaders. How will you use your services to help your community?
  5. Provide meaningful assistance: When you see an opportunity to make someone else’s life better, take it. Alibaba’s founder Jack Ma is setting a great example by donating masks and testing kits in Europe and the United States. Do what you can to meet the pressing and growing needs of people during this time. Use your resources to help others. Think of this as a creative exercise. For We First, we can help brands to think internally and externally about how they protect the health of their stakeholders and their bottom line.
  6. Offer online education: Take the key insights and skills sets you have and deliver education to others. Google is working with the World Health Organization to provide people with clear information to help manage this public health crisis. The ‘Do The Five’ informative campaign helps remind people what to do during these times. Wash your hands, cough into your elbows, don’t touch your face, keep your feet a safe distance apart and stay away from others if you feel sick. How could your knowledge help your clients and stakeholders that are struggling now to navigate through this? Create a network of community goodwill and think about what education you can offer.
  7. Be Positively Proactive: Be ready to redesign what you’re doing. If you are in an industry that relies on face-to-face exchanges, how can you still stay on consumers minds, create value and offer a product or service that can keep your business alive? The restaurant industry is being hit hard right now. Especially the front and the back of the house. It impacts so many lives as it slows and shuts down. A staple of Seattle’s fine dining, Canlis has retooled their business to give customers what they need in their homes. The restaurant now offers what they call the Family Meal, which changes daily. It includes a bottle of a wine and contactless delivery. They also provide a farm box as well as bottle and cocktail service for pick-up or delivery. You can build resiliency by having flexibility and being able to adapt to the new temporary lifestyle.
  8. Have a fully-integrated plan: Look at it holistically in the short and long term. How will you transition over the next 90 days? How will you adapt to this as the new norm? Starbucks is setting a wonderful example laying out a clear plan. It has now pivoted business to temporarily exclusively offer ‘to go’ orders in Canada and the States. It’s also supporting employees impacted by the virus with a ‘catastrophe pay’ program and mental health benefits. Not only does this support their employees, it also keeps consumers safe. How can you support your internal and external stakeholders with a comprehensive plan?
  9. Redirect your resources where you can: Chef Jose Andres is converting restaurants in DC and New York into ‘community kitchens’ where he helps people in need and offers customers a few takeout options. Think about how you can repurpose what you do to help those negatively impacted through this disaster.
  10. Revise your business strategy: Look at your strategy. We didn’t expect this global health crisis, but it is here. How can you take your services and products to customers in a way that will still drive revenue but be appropriate for the circumstances? In the movie industry we are seeing all these companies going straight to streaming. A company making considerable strategy changes is Universal. The media giant will release new movies online. Unfortunately, things will not go back to normal overnight. You need to fundamentally revise your business strategy to efficiently function during the pandemic.
  11. Mitigate potential repercussions: There are huge legal issues here. Who is going to be responsible for this? Who is going to pay the price for everything that has happened. It is better to take actions than point fingers. The tourism industry has been especially hard hit. As companies like Delta prepare to reduce business and staff by an estimated 40%, you see CEO’s like Ed Bastian taking a pay cut. Pull back products and services that might not be suitable for the crisis. This will ensure there are no repercussions that could hurt your business in the long term.
  12. Repurpose supply chains to meet people’s needs: Think about how you can use your existing infrastructure to add the most value to people today. LVMH, the manufacturer of Dior and other luxury perfume brands has repurposed their factory to make hand sanitizer. Instead of selling it, they are donating it to medical care providers in France. Another example of a company pivoting their supply chain is Foxconn, which manufactures the iPhone. They are now having workers stay home while they prepare to temporarily make face masks.
  13. Help those in need: Low income individuals are especially at risk of further financial, let alone health, challenges. Help people who need extra support now. It not only feels good, it also helps you build a positive reputation. Expensify, the expense management company, is shifting all of its charitable giving to feed low income families. Via expensify.org and the Expensify Card, the company will match the amount food stamp recipients receive during the crisis. What can you do to support people in need?
  14. Support those most affected: There are surprising ways to support the most affected. To help ensure the safety of those most at risk, grocery stores like Woolworth’s hold ‘Elderly-Only’ grocery hour. By being flexible and holding space, you can increase the safety and wellbeing of your community.
  15. Provide uplifting support: You can do a small act that will help others and elevate your brand image. For example, Chick-fil-A is helping hospitals by providing 1,000 free meals as a ‘thank you’. Caregivers, delivery drivers, grocery store workers and others are the heroes in this helping the world heal and keep on living. What is a simple way you can do to help others in your immediate network and the wider population?
  16. Think in surprising ways: What are some unconventional ways to support people in ways that aren’t apparent. How can you help people have fun and enjoy life? In an unexpected act of giving, Pornhub is providing their premium content for free in Italy. While porn isn’t something you might associate as crisis relief, it can help people get through these isolated times. What are some out of the box ways your company could adapt to benefit others?
  17. Engage your entire organization: Think about this as an all-in approach. How can you leverage your whole business? The sum of your parts is more powerful than each part separately. Shortly after the initial rise of the outbreak, Wang Donghua, chairman of Johnson & Johnson China, reached out to employees in Wuhan to get them on the ground facilitating medical supply donations to hospitals. Wang reached out to medical centers and nonprofits to act as volunteer-in-chief helping distribute the supplies. The company has since repurposed to address the crisis head on by not only providing medical supplies but investing in a vaccine. How can you get your whole organization on board? At We First Branding we are reaching out to clients and helping them troubleshoot, releasing blog posts on the topic, sharing webinars and answering any business and brand questions we can.
  18. Support your local communities: In a way this crisis is bringing us closer together in that we all have to do our part to keep communities, the country and our world safe. Every single one of us must see ourselves as a vital part of the community network. To help its neighbors, Amazon is donating $5 million to small businesses in Seattle. By supporting the local community, the e-commerce giant is building good faith and earning a social license to operate. How can you make a donation to your local community so it can survive and thrive?
  19. Help people at home: There are ways you can help people’s lives a little better. Is there anything you could do to improve life at home for your audience? Can you include a ‘value add’ to what you are already doing? Can you update terms or policies? Comcast is removing data caps and providing customers with Xfinity Wifi for free for two months. What can your company do to make people’s lives better at home? Another example of a brand helping people live fulfilling lives at home is Zoom. CEO Eric Yuan is offering free video meetings for K-12 Schools. Peloton workout app is giving people 90-days free to get fit at home. When people look back at this time, how can you make sure they remember you as an organization that made their lives better while they were inside?
  20. Support employees to stay connected with customers at home: It’s important to think about employees. How can you take your skillset or IP and support customers and employees at home? Los Angeles meditation studio The Den is helping teachers and customers maintain their practice during quarantine. The studio is facilitating online meditation classes in which teachers lead from their homes. Think of ways you can support your team to still do business during COVID. This may require new thinking and experimentation but it will only make you stronger.
  21. Lead from the inside out: There will be layoffs and furloughs. There will be challenges. But there are also ways to reframe and strengthen your business and community in the long term. We need to recognize that this is a time to step forward. Fender is standing up here and offering free music lessons for the first 100,000 people who sign up for their teaching platform, Fender Play.

It is a time to activate our best selves and higher purpose to rise to the challenge of this crisis and plant the seeds of new business practices that will serve all stakeholders in the years to come. There’s nothing we can’t achieve if we work together. Play the most meaningful role you can and you won’t just get through this, you will reinvent the role of business in our world as well.

Written by

CEO We First Inc, author NYT's bestseller We First, strategic corporate consultant and trainer, father, Australian, optimist.

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