Picture it. The year is 1990, and I am a 10-year old kid–scrawny, scraped knees, bowl cut with bangs, rocking a typical outfit of neon floral jams and a Minnie Mouse souvenir t-shirt that my parents picked up at an orange stand in Florida on the way to my grandparents’ pastel colored Orlando bungalow. I have an 8-year old sister, a 6-year old sister, and a brand new baby brother.
This particular summer, a man has attempted to abduct a child in our town. It was the typical “get into my van; I’ve got candy” scenario, and the kid ran home to tell her parents but the town is still abuzz with the incident. My mom, worried because the man hadn’t yet been caught, lays down ground rules for me and my sisters while playing outside. She sequesters us to the area of the yard where she can see us from the windows while she takes care of our baby brother.
This was a massive restriction for us, because like most kids growing up in the 1980’s and 90’s, my parents sent us outside for most of the summer to play unrestricted as long as we came in by dinner time. We lived on the edge of town–in the country really–with a giant lot that included woods and a creek. Those areas were not visible from the house. They were also obviously the best places to play.
For a few days, we contented ourselves with putting on a talent show on the front steps, and playing “tennis” with books and a tennis ball against the side of the house. We rode our bikes in small circles and roller skated. It got boring really fast.
We decided this called for action. We didn’t want to spend our entire summer cooped up in the side yard in view of our mom!
What was the plan that we figured would expedite our quest for freedom? Why, catch the bad guy, of course!
I know, I know…but we were inspired by our childhood heroes: scrappy and resourceful Kevin from Home Alone, the crime solving Nancy Drew, and the mystery cracking crew from Ghost Writer. We knew that what this crime needed was a group of smart, resourceful kids with a fool-proof plan!
Here was the plan: We gathered our red Radio Flyer wagon, some rocks, and a few jump ropes. We identified the very edge of our “safe zone” and marked it off with some sidewalk chalk. Next to this chalk line were two very climbable trees. Anne and I, as the two oldest and therefore strongest, climbed the tree with our arsenal of rocks. Julia (at age 6) was obviously the bad guy bait. We had her walk up and down the chalk line with the wagon, saying very loudly, “I’m all alone, I’m all by myself.” (Under a blanket in the wagon was the collection of jump ropes.)
We figured that the bad guy would drive by and see our irresistible 6-year old sister, broadly declaring her unmonitored status, and would have to take his kidnapping opportunity. When he attempted to grab her, we would knock him out with the rocks, and then tie him up with the jump ropes, throw him in the wagon, and cart him to our mom who would call the cops! Freedom achieved!
We worked at trying to trap the bad guy for 3 days before we got bored and moved on to other things. At some point, our restrictions were lifted and we were allowed to play where we wanted, but I can’t remember if the man was caught, or if the town just decided he’d moved on.
As an adult, I now see that our plan was ridiculous. But I am still proud of the problem solving skills that we developed and the creativity we displayed in our efforts to return to our normal childhood routine.
I see that same creative spirit rising up in people throughout the world now, in these unprecedented times of quarantine and coronavirus. Creativity and ingenuity rule the day once again! We’re throwing out the playbooks that don’t hold up in times of crisis and figuring out new ways of doing business.
One of the things that has changed most abruptly for businesses is the ways in which we attempt to connect with our clients and customers–communication styles change in the midst of crisis because they have to. Our normal marketing methods and sales strategies ring hollow when basic survival is the main goal of your day (especially if survival means trying to work from home with a 6-year old jumping off the couch arm onto your laptop. SHOUTOUT to my niece, Fiona Quinn!)
So, what are the new rules of communication? How can you continue to develop relationships between your brand and your audience when nothing is “normal”?
Here are my tips for creative communication strategies over the next few months:
- Get creative! Show some love, and identify with the struggle.
Repeat after me: IT IS OKAY TO BE HUMAN! Let people know about your own struggles as a company. Let people know how you’re pivoting, where you’re coming up against frustrations, and what you’re learning. You might come up with something that would seem dumb in any other circumstances (like videos of your employees’ kitchen dance moves) but everyone is making stuff up as they go right now. Show everyone you’re just rolling with it like they are!
- Connect with core values.
What’s important to your brand and the people you serve? Check in on your values and make sure the decisions you’re making in the face of crisis are still aligned with who you are. Don’t panic–and you’ll be proud of whatever happens when all of this madness blows over.
- Check your tone, and PIVOT like Ross on Friends!
Make sure that any messaging you had in the works for the next quarter is still appropriate considering the tough times people are going through. Evaluate language, images, and timing. Do you need to adjust thing in order to ring true right now?
- Turn off the bots.
If you can, this is the time to talk to your customers and clients one on one. We are all craving human connection. We’re all dealing with frayed nerves. Choose to be a little less efficient and get on the phone or answer the emails personally. Let people know that they’re important. Listen to what they need. You never know–your next big business growth idea might come from meeting the needs of your existing clients.
- How can YOU help?
What special skill does your business bring to your clients that could help others during these difficult times?
This one is so important. We’re all facing loss of income, plans for growth crumbling around us, failure to meet our projections, and even the possibility of shuttering our businesses. The good thing is the fact that it’s happening to all of us–it’s not just your business. Do what you can to ease the burden of this for your employees and your clients or customers. I know that people are watching. We’re making choices on who we’re going to support with our own limited funds based on what we’re seeing from you. We see the companies who are taking a hit on their own profits in order to support the community in some way, and those are the companies we’re going to work with and buy from.
Keeping this last tip in mind, I want each of you to know that I’m available to help you craft the right messaging for your audience over the next quarter. If you’d like to set up a free strategy session to talk about your plans, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll set up a time to talk. You can use this time to make your business relationships thrive, and I’m glad to help!