The coronavirus crisis has brought out the best in many brands and companies, in both words and actions.
Ford adjusted its marketing focus away from traditional product advertising and sports sponsorships to a socially driven message centered on supporting communities, and America, during this crisis. Abbott Laboratories built and shipped more than half a million rapid COVID-19 tests in less than a month. And shoemakers Allbirds and Crocs are sending footwear to frontline health care workers.
Inside thousands more companies, video calls and IMs are daily proof of leaders’ efforts to effectively respond to a new and unprecedented reality—virtually overnight.
As business leaders move beyond triage and settle into a new normal, they should think ahead, to when they will look back. We are living through a historic moment. Capturing your actions and stories today is about more than posterity—it will deliver immense value down the road.
Apple is dedicated to supporting the worldwide response to COVID-19. We’ve now sourced over 20M masks through our supply chain. Our design, engineering, operations and packaging teams are also working with suppliers to design, produce and ship face shields for medical workers. pic.twitter.com/3xRqNgMThX
— Tim Cook (@tim_cook) April 5, 2020
Seeing how your customers responded to new ways of delivering your product or service could foster permanent improvements in the way you serve your market. Looking at the ways your leadership, employees and community responded to the crisis could validate your brand purpose, bringing it to life in ways that inspire your team and supercharge their post-crisis exertion. And looking back at how your employees adapted to new working conditions and rose to the occasion (or didn’t) will give you a better understanding of your work force. Assessing your agility in the sudden onslaught of this crisis could help you better prepare for the next one.
In all those ways, capturing the history your company is living through is one of the most important steps you can take today to set up the business for success in the future. Here’s how.
Preserving history amid a fast-moving, totally unpredictable health crisis may sound like a tall order. But putting a few processes in place is all it takes. These three will give you plenty to draw on when it comes time to assess what you have been through.
What were the plans, processes and actions you put in place or altered in response to the crisis? What worked, and what didn’t? How did you communicate changes to your team, and how did your communication itself change? Consider writing a playbook for the next time, an invaluable resource for people who face a similar situation in the future. After all, memories of what happened during a crisis can blur or fade. Documentation can help the organization deal with future crises faster and better.
Want to know whether your culture and values are alive? Ask people to describe how they’re living the company’s values while juggling responsibilities to their loved ones, battling technology, planning their next careful grocery run, reassuring colleagues, texting friends, and combating anxiety. Talk to community groups you are supporting about the impact of your efforts, and create a record of their responses. Gathering the stories of employees, partners, suppliers and customers can provide a source of inspiration and courage, now and in the future.
Creating a record will not do any good if no one can draw from or add to it. You need a place to house and organize this content. It should include records of internal and external communications, plans, process changes, marketing and communication programs, and other vital actions related to COVID-19 and your organization’s response. The good news: In the digital age, such records are easily gathered even when everyone is working remotely. Once the records have all been assembled, they should be organized and managed by an appointed internal archivist/historian or by an outside firm that knows how and what to capture and how to preserve digital files.
The power of a repository populated with stories, documents and other assets will become evident almost immediately. It will reveal insights into which actions have resonated with your stakeholders, which haven’t, and where your actions and responses may be lacking.
The greater value of your archive will appear later in providing answers to help identify critical areas for improvement, pinpoint strengths and reveal opportunities. It will help answer questions such as:
- What would I want to know if another crisis like COVID-19 surfaced?
- How can our organization’s response to this crisis help reinforce our values, purpose and culture?
- How flexible and adaptive is our organization? How quickly can we adapt with our customers, suppliers and employees in mind?
- What worked and what did not? Why?
- How have our brand reputation and trust been affected?
- How has buying behavior changed, and have we adjusted our business practices accordingly?
It’s not going to be easy. None of this is. And capturing what you are doing today may seem secondary. However, capturing and preserving history as it is happening will deliver immense value, today and in the future.