March 24, 2020

6 Steps to Lead Authentically Through Crisis

These are unprecedented times. And scary times for many. The efforts of medical workers are incredibly inspiring and selfless, and the losses will no doubt be heartbreaking.


A Business Agency

A marked shift in lifestyles has swept the world, with many “sheltering in place,” people working from home, schools shutting their doors, retail shops closing, and social gatherings canceled.

While there is no one clear path forward, there is opportunity. Opportunity to help, opportunity to do the right thing. As Mr. Rogers liked to say, “look for the helpers” in trying times, as there are always helpers. There’s always a way to do something positive and a way to lead in times of crisis.

1. Have an agile plan with scenarios

These extraordinary times bring some uncertainty as to what exactly to plan for. The best solution in this case is to have a plan for multiple scenarios. Regardless of the plan, commit to remaining agile and flexible in your responses. We know things will change, and that this is a different time than “business as usual” for the last 5 years. It may be prudent to assemble a task force for special planning and establish a normal cadence for assessing changes.

2. Be sensitive to the emotional rollercoaster most of humanity is experiencing

The planned marketing messaging from a month ago may not resonate in today’s climate. A 60% off offer and irrelevant humor aren’t going to build brand halos in these trying times. Be empathetic to what people are feeling right now. Double-down on connection. Ask your customers how they are feeling. Focus on being reassuring and a value-add to your community, now more than ever.

3. Realize your customers may have shifted priorities

A customer who may have valued a free milkshake in the last market survey may now be experiencing a change in their own prioritization. They are likely seeing many in need and may appreciate the ability to donate their loyalty points to the foodbank instead.

4. Lean into your community & values

Ask what it is your organization wants to do to help your constituents in these times. And consider what assets, talents, technology, and knowledge you have that could help. One option is to rally your partners around a cause that is relevant to helping your community. Another is to make it easier for your digital community to help others, by donating through your digital platform, email campaigns, social advertising, or other media of your choosing. Enable your community to make a difference.

5. Leverage the power of digital in these times

An overwhelming feeling of “Apart but Together” is driving humanity. Digital connections are increasing with online meetings, remote schooling, and online gaming especially. Brands like Barry’s Bootcamp are offering free, live-streamed trainings. This gesture is important right now — it provides high value to current customers and allows new ones to experience a meaningful connection with the brand’s community. Brands that are helpful in this hard time will see the benefits later on, with a deeper connection to consumers than they ever had before.

6. Be authentic in your gestures

It is critical to ensure that all gestures are authentically connected to your brand ethos. Creating any perception of being an opportunist in a crisis can breed tremendous amounts of ill sentiment. Be. Authentic.

Take extra measures to show your appreciation in these challenging times. Take this opportunity to find connection, one human to another, via phone call, video chat, email, CRM, messaging, or whatever the connection may be. Ensure that your company embraces this human element. It is precisely this humanity that will carry us through to better times.


Part 2 of the series will take a look at how marketing strategies are changing by the day, and which brands are doing it right in the COVID era. Stay tuned!

Kara Buckley

Managing Director & Business Lead