03.30.2020

In the Wake of COVID-19…Is Your Message The Right One?

Of course the coronavirus has disrupted your business. The question is, what are you going to say about it?

Whenever we explore crisis response in one of our spokesperson media training sessions, the hypothetical dilemma is a contained, often self-inflicted event – a customer data breach, a manufacturing defect, a safety issue at a consumer gathering. COVID-19 fallout continues to wreak havoc, and you’d be hard pressed to find an industry, or even a single company, that hasn’t been disrupted. Some executives would argue that, because all companies are in the same boat, and their company is not at any specific “fault,” laying low and not addressing the virus directly is the most prudent course of action.

While it’s true that of course, most companies can’t do anything to eradicate the virus, leaders have a responsibility to stakeholders, partners, and customers, to demonstrate a clear-eyed, decisive strategy in the face of a crisis. The core tenets of our media training program are:

*Tell the truth

*Tell it early

*Tell it yourself

A real-life crisis, like the one we’re all sorting through at the moment, tests even the most acclaimed senior leader. Here are two great, coachable examples brought to you recently by COVID-19:

Sourcify on manufacturing in the era of Coronavirus

Sourcify CEO Nathan Resnick appeared on CNBC towards the end of a volatile trading day, offering leadership around supply chain diversity among small businesses. He brought a quasi-analyst’s perspective on recovery in China, and touched repeatedly on the trickle-down effect that is leaving small consumer products brands short on supply. 

Most importantly, Resnick didn’t get caught up in answering host Kelly Evans’ questions too thoroughly, which could have led him right into a “doom and gloom” discussion on manufacturing in China post-coronavirus. Sourcify’s clients expect them to simplify global production, and this interview did a great job of leaving a potential customer feeling confident in Sourcify’s abilities.

Broken Toy Fair

In fairness, history books may one day city February 24 as the first day of a pandemic-induced recession. In an extremely harsh coincidence of timing, markets took a historic and mostly unexpected tumble all day, just as the annual American International Toy Fair wound down. Still, the Toy Industry Association’s member companies — brands who literally create fun and games — likely expected a more confident showing from President and CEO Steve Pasierb on Fox Business

“From Toys R’ Us to tariffs to this, we can’t catch a break” doesn’t exactly inspire retail buyers and licensors headed into the last day of the toy industry’s annual must-attend trade show. Even when anchor Lauren Simonetti gave Pasierb a free pass to talk about Baby Yoda, he came back around to the complications of manufacturing in China, worrying that the toy industry as a whole could not get product onto shelves in time for summer or the holidays. He even said, “our worry is…” While these are honest concerns, I would hope there was a talking point, along the lines of, “we are confident that our member companies will respond to these challenges with the ingenuity and creativity that the toy industry is known for,” that he just couldn’t get to in time. 

Your Turn
Most of us don’t work in med-tech or pharma, but that doesn’t mean your only course of action as a leader during a pandemic is to react. Whether it’s talking to the media or inspiring confidence in your customers, partners, or investors, we can help you craft confident, simple messaging, and (virtual) training to deliver it with authority when it matters most. 

Contact me at rich@resoundmarketing.com.