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How to Communicate with Purpose During a Pandemic

As impact communicators and advisors, it’s our responsibility to remind those we work with and those we meet along the way that businesses that lead with purpose and credible, authentic values are those that will stand the test of time.

As we move through the stages of this global pandemic, which has forced us to rethink our approaches to both personal and professional life, it’s an interesting time to consider our place in history and the legacy we hope to create through our work. For some countries, lockdown continues — meaning, little social interaction for their non-essential workers other than daily Zoom meetings or phone calls. Other states and countries have eased restrictions and are reopening. Schools in Denmark are welcoming children through their doors with new safety measures; and most businesses in New Zealand, thanks to the measured approach of the country’s progressive leader, have already reopened.

While future waves remain a risk, the time when COVID-19 is remembered as no more than a significant moment in history is on the horizon. When this time comes and we reflect on the roles we played, will we be proud of the work we did to help one another? Will we reflect on COVID-19 as the era that further solidified our purpose and values through thoughtful, responsible action? Will we champion this legacy for years to come? 

The answers to these questions lie in the actions we take today. Messages coming from public health bodies worldwide throughout this pandemic have reiterated the importance of responsible action that puts others first, and these messages should transcend to the world of business long after the pandemic ends.

Strengthening the foundation of your purpose

The steps we take now to help our workforce, customers, partners, and even our competitors will serve as the tools we need to weather the storm and come out stronger as our global economy rebuilds. 

Many brands have been responding to the crisis in creative and impactful ways, prioritizing decisions based on need, humanity, and community. Take Airbnb, which quickly decided to offer free or subsidized accommodation to frontline healthcare workers, enabling them to be closer to their workplaces while isolating from their families. Ford partnered with 3M and GE Healthcare to manufacture much-needed respirators, ventilators and other personal protective equipment; and dozens of breweries and distilleries pivoted operations in response to a nationwide shortage of hand sanitizer. 

Stories of companies coming to the aid of those on the frontlines of the crisis have been making headlines throughout COVID-19. Behind the scenes, impact communicators have been shaping these stories, ensuring that what their organization can offer is connected with those who will benefit from it and that the story is conveyed authentically. At a time when consumers are both vulnerable and skeptical, it’s our responsibility to make sure the information they receive is accurate, transparent and in no way opportunistic.

How to demonstrate authentic purpose during a crisis

For the first time in decades, the world is essentially singing off the same hymn sheet. As businesses reframe their approaches to get through this period of uncertainty, it’s important to consider what matters to society in this moment — health, safety, trust, transparency. Our worlds and perspectives have been turned upside-down. Now is the time to recognize the desire for a more just and compassionate society. Consumers may not be spending as much, but they are paying close attention — looking for support, solutions, and solidarity from brands and organizations. Thinking about your key audiences, the specific challenges they might be facing, and how you can actively address these challenges (or at least lessen worries or concerns in other areas) will position you as an ally, building brand loyalty. Positive relationships with customers, even if they don’t result in an immediate profit, will strengthen your connection to your community and make you so much more than just a product or service provider.

As impact relations communicators and consultants, many of us have the privilege of working with thoughtful organizations, mission-driven brands, and values-aligned teams that are already helping their communities. This gives us a chance to not only shape the world we live in through the initiatives and partnerships we work on, but also to bring positive, impactful stories to the masses — inspiring our fellow global citizens to also lead with purpose. That’s not to say that ‘business as usual’ is gone for good. As companies begin to review their post-pandemic books and plan for the coming years, conversations around cost-cutting and recouping lost profits are likely to come up.

As impact communicators and advisors, it’s our responsibility to remind those we work with and those we meet along the way that businesses that lead with purpose and credible, authentic values are those that will stand the test of time. 

Recovery is a marathon, not a sprint. Let patience, purpose — and a desire that the world should be better off for your company being in it — guide your decision-making, and you can’t go wrong.

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