It’s official. The Novel Coronavirus aka COVID-19 has been declared a pandemic by the WHO. Even prior to the news, many businesses and industries have experienced a slowdown. In Australia, Qantas cancelled a quarter of its flights owing to weak demand. Airlines around the world are doing similar. Tourism, retail, hospitality, entertainment and events have all been impacted, and economists and experts from Forbes and the Economist have predicted recession/economic downturn.

In a time of fear, quarantines/lockdowns (looking at you, Italy) and panic toilet paper-buying, it’s heartening to see governments and companies make an effort to help their customers and communities at large.

The Australian government has announced a $17.6 billion stimulus package to help small businesses and potential consumers. One of the goals is to help keep small businesses afloat via a $25,000 cash grant.

Google gave free enterprise access to G Suite users for Hangouts Meet video-conferencing services to help students in schools and employees in businesses stay connected. They are also being extra vigilant in removing any misleading content and ads capitalising on the virus.

Social media giant Facebook offered the WHO unlimited free ads to get the right information about the virus out and to also help dispel fake news and misinformation.

While it’s great that help is coming in fast and furious, businesses need to innovate in order to get through this tough patch in our history. If anything, this is a wake-up call for all businesses in B2C and B2B… it’s time for some out of the box thinking.

Some things to consider:

1. Diversify or shift your revenue stream

If you’re a brick and mortar business with e-commerce capabilities, how can you ramp up your marketing and your customer experience to cater to users who might choose to shop online more instead of going out to your store? If you’re in food and beverage, consider working with a delivery service to keep your orders going as people elect to stay in more.

Is your marketing team ready for a shift in their plans and how fast can they potentially pivot campaigns already planned? 

2. Have an emergency work plan and communicate it!

The show must go on. 

As an agency, we live and die by how well we service our clients. Many of our clients are also responsible for ensuring that there is continuity of service during a period where there are potential quarantines. 

Ensure that your organisation has an emergency work plan to cater for the possibility that our usual ways of working might need to change. Already, one of our clients is trialling the entire office working from home in anticipation of a potential wider-spread quarantine.

Are your technology, processes and staff ready for more e-meetings and less human contact? What about your communications? Have you spoken to your customers and addressed how you’ll maintain your continuity of service during this period? This will go a long way towards giving reassurance, building goodwill and creating a great customer experience.

3. Be ethical

How do you want people to remember your actions and your brand? There will be individuals and businesses who take advantage of fear. Already, we’ve seen an increase in scam emails that dupes users into installing malware under the guise of an attachment detailing ‘infection prevention advice’. Unscrupulous people are buying out supplies such as face masks and hand sanitisers and flipping them for profit. Google, Facebook and Instagram are making attempts to stop businesses from creating ads that take advantage of the situation. Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram, on the topic of banning ads selling face masks on their platform, “Supplies are short, prices are up, and we’re against people exploiting this public health emergency. We’ll start rolling this out over the next few days.” 

Humankind has shown incredible resilience. More recently we’ve weathered SARS and Swine Flu and bounced back stronger than ever. In times like these, let’s remain positive and supportive of each other.

Three ways for businesses to weather the COVID-19 pandemic

Shawn Low
Shawn has more than 15 years of content and marketing experience, working both client- and agency-sides. His diverse career has seen him work across both the B2C and B2B segments, as well as with start-ups. As Head of Content and Social for Green Hat, Shawn will drive effective content in order to meet strategic, commercial and business needs.