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Let’s get something straight: I’m a writer not a doctor or a medical professional, so to publish a blog post purporting anything different or offering suggestions on how to combat the coronavirus (COVID-19) wouldn’t just be irresponsible; it would be wrong. I have no idea what tomorrow will bring. I can’t possibly fathom why people are buying up toilet paper like they’ve never used it before. I don’t know why society as a collective has just now realized hand-washing is a mandatory thing. (By the way, Fork & Melon, a female-founded business, is offering 19% off on orders of their natural, non-toxic hand soaps. Check it out here.) As for my own situation, I work from home already. I just got back from a successful business trip to Nashville by way of a half-empty airplane. Yes, I’m having a hard time finding goat’s milk at any nearby grocery store but an Amazon Fresh delivery arrives Monday. Beyond that who knows? 
I did email my uncle, a longtime emergency room doctor, asking for this thoughts on the WHO-declared pandemic. He sent back a succinct but helpful response:

Very contagious though for vast majority it causes mild/insignificant illness. Societal concern is in consideration of the much more serious illness, which manifests with advanced age and chronic conditions. Recommend thoughtful response in line with CDC guidelines. Good opportunity to read books on your “pile.”

This is also a good opportunity to get proactive about the ways you can prepare your business for whatever comes next. While the future is hard to predict, especially as the level of hysteria seems to heighten every day, this is what we know:
  • More people than ever before are working from home.
  • Even for those still going into the office, “social distancing” has caused them to remain at home after hours.
  • Business and personal trips are getting cancelled, especially those planned for the next 30 days.
  • Physical storefronts are required – or due to low demand are opting – to temporarily close.
  • Layoffs are already happening and budgets are getting adjusted to offset lost revenue from planned events or activations.

Just as we’re preparing to “flatten the curve” of contagion by staying home and avoiding crowds, there are tactics we can implement now in our businesses to lay a solid foundation of hope amid shaky ground. Here are five:

  1. Go live to teach, inform and market your business. Leverage the fact people are at home, most likely bored, and navigating a new reality of productivity roadblocks they didn’t have to encounter before. (It’s harder than you think to work effectively when a TV looms and no boss is in sight.) Catch current and prospective customers as they scroll by going live on Instagram or Facebook. On social media, live videos receive three times higher engagement than a posted video and five times more engagement than a standard post. (Thanks for the stats, AdWeek.) Take the next few minutes to think about ways you can deliver your value proposition, better position your brand or share important product updates with customers on a short, live session. I plan to conduct a live session every Friday this month, teaching writing, communications strategies and more. If you become indispensable to your customers now when they’re grasping for answers, you’ll gain their all-important trust and loyalty, which will go a long way in growing your business through the tangled weeds of challenging times.
  2. Issue an internal announcement to instill confidence. Amid all the messages about what not to do there isn’t much about what to do. This is the time to step up and step out. Assure your team you remain confident in the ability of your product or service to ride out this medical storm. Use bold, straightforward language in your email and back up your expectations with past results. Was there a time when your company successfully sailed the winds of trouble to reach calmer seas? Focus on the positive and be a force for buoyancy as others sink into the doomsday headlines.
  3. Issue an external announcement to explain action steps. Coupled with a strong internal email should be a strong external email. No jokes, no witty turns of phrase, just the truth delivered with raw authenticity in your brand’s unique voice. This communication should also outline all the distinct action steps you’re taking to assuage the situation. If you’re a restaurant, maybe you’ve hired extra cleaning staff or are using individually wrapped utensils instead of forks in those air-exposed, plastic cups. Or maybe you offer discounted pricing on delivery to stimulate sales. If you’re an e-commerce retail brand, maybe you turn to free shipping … the list of solutions goes on. Where there are problems, there are answers and each one should be summarized for your customers to digest.
  4. Automate revenue in a world of digital sovereignty. Right now, our existence is hyper-digital. Meetings (however ironically) have become emails, or are being conducted via Zoom or Uberconference. What was once an in-person interaction is now mitigated by a screen, and that means consumer attention has swiftly shifted away from brick and mortal in its (almost) entirety and is focused solely online. Just as you’re thinking about what to say on your newly announced Instagram live, brainstorm ways you can automate revenue by capitalizing on this (however temporary) digital dominance. I’m talking subscription services, product packages, downloadable e-books and more. This even applies if you’re not a service-oriented business. Selling wine? Re-up your wine club with a newly energized email marketing campaign.
  5. Think like an influencer. James Nord, founder of influencer marketing agency, Fohr, sent out a thoughtful email titled: “Influence in the time of COVID-19.” Conjecturing on the impact of coronavirus, Nord hypothesizes some influencers will see an influx of business as social media becomes a more omnipotent presence in our lives. He writes: “People will spend more time on social media as they spend less time socializing IRL. We are social creatures and we need to feel connected somehow … Influencers entertain people, they provide a sense of escapism and as anxiety sky-rockets people more than ever need a little escape, a little kick of normalcy and that can come from buying a new sheet mask an influencer recommended or browsing on Tik-Tok.” You may not have the budget to engage a micro- or even a nano-influencer right now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t adopt an influencer mindset in your own marketing efforts. Surprise, delight and gratify this ever-growing need for distraction by making your content even more interesting, more digestible and more compelling than ever before. Share aspects of your lifestyle, share your business’ triumphs and struggles. Give people skin in your game. Use your humanity to connect.

As for your personal sanity, I suggest taking my uncle’s advice and maybe reading a book or two. (I’m currently digging “The Woman In the Window” by A.J. Finn, “The Dichotomy of Leadership” by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin and an audiobook by Brian Tracy, “The Psychology of Achievement.” ) Or you could write a book. Or you could arrange your books in alphabetical order. Clean your closet. Clear your mind. Work out in your backyard. No matter what you do, do something. Otherwise the news will send you down a spiraling rabbit hole of despair. Remember, the world is still full of light and kindness. Even as darkness looms, it’s more important than ever to shine.
Stay safe and healthy, Melissa

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