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Managing Your Brand During a Global Crisis

Sara Tetreault

Brand Strategy Director, Forum One

A global crisis, like the current COVID-19 outbreak, presents a challenge in successfully managing a mission-driven brand. Preparing your organization will help you position yourself to weather the storm.

A crisis is caused by a major but temporary change, but while in the midst of one, organizations can manage the crisis itself instead of managing through the crisis. It’s important to maintain vigilance in protecting your staff and being a good global citizen by not participating in risky behavior. But in a time of crisis, a nonprofit also needs to be a good steward of their brand to ensure they can emerge on the other end, possibly even stronger than they were previously.

Vigilantly Stand by Your Promise

One of the most valuable things you can do in a time of crisis is sticking by your brand promise or the one thing that you can always be sure to provide to your audiences no matter when or how they interact with you. In times of crisis, this may mean that you have to think creatively about how you interact with your audiences. Perhaps you will need to cancel meetings or in-person gatherings, make sure you communicate how this aligns with your values and how you are planning to keep working by meeting in other formats.

This might also mean that you have to keep an eye on your social media to ensure that you are not helping propagate false news or that your reputation is not being attacked. This is more relevant for some organizations than others, but it is important to ensure that your brand is not muddied by a false narrative being spread on digital platforms out of fear or misinformation.

  • Have a clear brand strategy in place that outlines how you communicate your value.
  • Continue to create content and updates that engage audiences via your digital platforms.
  • Establish a team of individuals who will be able to react to last-minute requests and can address the crisis and how it is affecting your organization. 
  • Ensure people that you value them and will continue to live in your brand values.

Have a Plan in Place

If you don’t already, you should consider how you will deal with your critical infrastructures so as not to disrupt your mission-driven tasks or interrupt important initiatives that are in the midst of being executed. Your brand may suffer if you lose the ability to continue your work, even if it is in a somewhat limited capacity. Once a crisis hits, you have a limited amount of time to put a plan in place.

  • Establish crisis management protocols, explicitly including early communication protocols.
  • Identify with clear leadership and roles and deputies for each team to ensure that they communicate protocols and act as a point of contact.
  • Ensure that you know who and how you are going to manage human, financial, and operational resources in the worst-case scenario to minimize the impact on your brand’s long-term reputation.

Being Creative with Collaboration

Your collaboration tools don’t need to be complicated, but they should be in place when a crisis hits. At the very least, you should have a plan for how your staff will continue to operate if they are forced to be at home for an extended period of time. The good news is that access to technology makes it easy to work from anywhere. Tools like Zoom and Slack allow your team to stay in touch with each other while still holding important meetings and making sure you continue to move your mission forward.

  • Communicate to your staff when is the best time to work from home and try a practice day to see what additional capacity you need to build if fully remote work becomes necessary on a temporary basis.
  • Brainstorm ways to engage your audiences virtually, whether that is through webinars or other virtual events or providing extra content via your digital channels.

In times of crisis, having a plan in place to manage through the crisis is just as important as the organizational ability to remain flexible and creative. 

Written By

Sara Tetreault

Brand Strategy Director, Forum One

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