We recently launched a webinar series for our portfolio on Thriving in Tough Times, in which experts in various domains share their insights. Our first guest was reputation management expert Amanda Duckworth, who reminded us that actions and behaviors in a time of crisis can do much to enhance long term reputation. While we are certainly living in unprecedented times, and there is no blueprint for what to do as things are changing every day, there are still steps companies can take – as Amanda said, you can’t manage a crisis, but you can lead through one. And in doing the right thing during this extraordinary time, companies will be able to strengthen bonds with critical stakeholders and increase the value of these relationships.
Here were some of the key takeaways from her session.
Trust is your only currency.
Trust comes from being transparent, consistent and accurate in your communications, even if you have to evolve your position over time to adapt to changing circumstances. It’s always better to be straightforward with bad news than to have to backtrack later. For example, if you think there’s a chance that your company will have to cut headcount, it’s better to be clear that all options are on the table. If you tell your employees that layoffs won’t happen and then you have to make cuts, you’ll lose their trust.
Demonstrate leadership through your core values.
In a time where many have lost trust in government and other institutions, people are looking to companies for leadership. The best way to move forward is to follow your company’s core values to determine your actions. We’ve seen plenty of examples of companies recognizing the need to be leaders in their communities by repurposing production lines to make hand sanitizer or face masks. It’s also a time to put aside monetary self-interest and not take every last nickel off the table to help employees and customers.
Use communications to strengthen your team and support your employees.
Right now, employees are your most important audience. The goal for internal communications during this time is to instill confidence that your organization has the mechanisms in place to manage a lot of uncertainty. To achieve this, you can start by creating a team (Amanda says in an early-stage company it can be as small as 2 people) to focus on the issue at hand, and appoint a crisis czar who reports directly to the CEO. The team should be cross-functional and make decisions in short increments (every 24-48 hours) based on tracking key metrics. Then communicate this structure to the employees.
You’ll also need to define the new world order and communicate these roles and procedures to your team. Who can work from home, and who can’t? Why is that the case? How will working procedures change in this new environment? How can the company support the employees’ mental wellbeing during this time? These are a few examples of questions your leadership crisis team should think through and communicate to employees.
Communicate, communicate, communicate.
It’s better to err on the side of over-communicating with your core stakeholders, especially employees and customers. For employees, create a regular cadence of communication and stick to it, even if there are no real updates. The form – Zoom meeting, dial-in call, email – is less important than the consistency.
Stay super close to customers.
For customers, keep them updated on your business, especially if you will be unable to meet their needs. And try to be flexible when you can with customers if they’re having a tough time – can you make adjustments to billing cycles, delivery schedules, etc.? It’s these kinds of actions that will bolster reputation on the other side of a crisis.
Following these guiding principles and specific actions can help companies preserve and even increase their value as we all navigate the choppy waters ahead. Thanks to Amanda for sharing her insights with us, and stay tuned for more expert insights on thriving in tough times.
For more lessons on thriving in tough times, check out the other articles in the series:
Originally published on LinkedIn.