Three Tips for Branding Yourself During a Crisis

So here you are (or… there you were, all depending on when you read this in 2020 and whether the business world has started to return to its “new normal.”) You’re inside your home eating curbside takeout while watching an excessive amount of news and Netflix. Your social distancing skills are leveling up as well as your face wear. You’ve even played around on social media a little bit and found out what “Game of Thrones” personality you are. Yet with all of these adjustments, what about your small business? If you are like so many others I know, you need to do something… but you’re not quite sure what.

In times of crisis, there is an opportunity to pivot your brand. If you’re unfamiliar with the term when applied to business, let me explain. Pivoting in business simply means shifting to a new strategy. While some may feel that drastic changes constitute a pivot, this is not always the case. Oftentimes, a business needs only to address one to two aspects of its brand strategy in order to successfully pivot.

Here are three things I would keep in mind before you change directions:
1. Don’t scrap that work you’ve already done
Since creating a new strategy doesn’t require a massive amount of change, it’s important to identify which aspects of your brand can be preserved and what must be reimagined. Once you’ve settled on the new angle, express how this new approach still connects to the heart and mission of the brand. It is vital to keep the core values that made your business great intact. You’ve spent an immeasurable amount of time, energy, and money building a sustainable business. Remember, you’re not pivoting to start from scratch, you are simply adding a new aspect to your well-known identity.

One example that is popular with our agency is online storefronts.

When non-essential stores were unable to open, online storefronts and digital downloads became a smart pivot for many small businesses. This allowed a high percentage of what has made them great to remain attached while adding an online experience that, for many, has become a valuable stream of revenue.

2. Chart your course and bring a friend if possible
Once you have your new strategy set in motion, chart your next steps carefully. Without giving enough thought to where you’re going, there’s a strong possibility of running into a major roadblock. Take the time to plan out a strategy session that explores possible positive and negative circumstances. To help prevent a bad pivot, make sure that you take into account the opportunities for growth and expansion. If your new strategy goes well, you may be the first on the scene. This would allow you to capture the market without much competition. Another great strategy is to build community through new partnerships/collaborations. Building alliances during a crisis is a great way to pivot your brand. It’s also important to collaborate with other businesses for support and ideas. Being a local or small business can be a lonely island; remember, there is strength in numbers and sharing ideas. Make an effort to connect or reconnect with a small business.

Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social media platforms are good tools. Remember to use them as a resource and not just a mental midday escape.

3. Keep it real
Pivoting in a crisis can leave a business feeling a level of vulnerability. “What should I say?” “What shouldn’t I mention?” Above all, “how can I stay relevant?” To combat this, I urge any brand to be authentic and transparent about their efforts. State that you are taking things in a new direction due to the immediate crisis. Loyal customers are still your ambassadors, so give them a way to assist your brand! Continue to maintain a strong relationship with supporters and give them the heads up once you have SOLID INFORMATION.

You can do this several different ways: directly, individually, through online posts, or even a podcast.

Showing your supporters that they are more than a number will always help your brand no matter what direction you go. An example of this would be the creation of engaging/call-to-action content. Share a photo montage showing how you are handling this period of self-isolation. You can make it as funny or as serious as your brand allows. If you have a small team, try collectively telling customers that, “We miss you, and we’ll see you soon.” Your honesty and creativity will keep them coming back for more. Just make sure that the end result is informative, positive and memorable.

Do not fear change
As you pivot, remember that there are many great brands that have changed their strategy mid-journey. FaceSmash was a site comparable to—it later became the juggernaut know as Facebook. Sony once focused on small home appliances such as rice cookers and electric blankets—after pivoting, they became a masterful brand of electronics and today have their hands in cameras, video games, computer monitors, and even TV/entertainment.

I urge every brand to take up the mantra of #DontPanicPivot and let’s make the second half of this year a beautiful Cinderella story.

By Jawansa Hall (Millennials on the Move 2017)