2020 was undoubtedly a year that was defined by crisis. The California wildfires sparked by a gender reveal, the killing of George Floyd, the allegations of fraud and illegal voting – all amidst a global pandemic.
COVID-19 forced every organization, from small home service companies to college sports teams, to adapt their operations and the communication strategies around them. It became each institution’s obligation to proactively combat misinformation and promote a safe environment for employees and customers. For business leaders, their response to lockdowns, furloughs, and staff health and safety were fundamental in determining public opinion.
As with any crisis, there have been opportunities to be creative and potentially come out stronger than before. Here are a few examples of companies who showed creativity, agility, and authenticity in these tumultuous times:
- H-E-B Grocery acted quickly in keeping their employees safe and secure financially. It raised employee hourly pay, was one of the first organizations to install plexiglass shields for cashiers, and extended fully paid medical leave to anyone diagnosed with COVID-19.
- Tito’s Vodka acted selflessly and authentically, repurposing equipment normally used for distilling vodka to produce hand sanitizer for “those who need it most.”
- As airline companies across the U.S. became financially impacted by COVID-19, Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian sent a memo out to employees that was candidly honest about the struggles the company was facing. Bastian went on to detail several key actions he and his Board of Directors were taking, including forgoing 100% of their salaries for 2020.
While crises present opportunities, they have an equal tendency to expose pre-existing vulnerabilities. We looked at several companies that fell short of expectations:
- Following Congress’s repayable loan program, big banks’ inability to act or communicate quickly and effectively opened the door for smaller banks to seize this opportunity and emphasize the attributes that have kept them around.
- Leading up to the 2020 Presidential Election, Expensify CEO David Barrett received criticism for using a company’s platform to speak his political beliefs on behalf of the entire organization.
Many of the new ideas and innovations we have seen as required for 2020 will not simply go away in 2021. Now is the time to reevaluate and rebrand if needed and lean into your business’s core values and strengths. Dig deep, and fix things your company has been putting off. Your reputation and company’s survival may depend on these changes for a long time to come.