Nobody can deny 2020 has been an unusually difficult year so far. We’ve been hit by a global pandemic, protests, and unrest around the world, not to mention a massive economic decline with an uncertain future. The events of the past several months have left us all reeling, and we still don’t know what the rest of 2020 will bring.
While we might not know what to expect a month — or a year — from now, we can still use proven methods to prepare for disruption and/or disaster. Armed with the lessons the pandemic has taught us, we can both help our communities and ensure that our brands make a positive mark on society.
You don’t need to create a million-dollar relief fund, but you can serve your community in many ways with compassionate and thoughtful actions. Here are six civic-minded ways your business can respond to a disaster.
6 Civic-Minded Ways to Respond to Disasters
1. Think Globally, Act Locally
As much as you’d like to save the world, that’s a tall order — and one that would be impossible for any business, large or small, to fill. What you can do is explore ways to do good in your own backyard (either geographical or in your industry).
- Provide essentials to those in need — As the U.S. is officially in a recession, many people are struggling. You can help by organizing food drives, making food or monetary donations on a recurring basis, and providing funds for people to have access to clean drinking water. You can also help your team members contribute, too, by providing them with the flexibility to volunteer on company time.
- Partner with local businesses — If the recession spirals downward, many businesses will struggle to remain sustainable. Help other businesses and nonprofits by engaging in cross-promotional efforts to boost their marketing. As a natural side-effect, you’ll increase your own visibility at the same time.
- Source from community businesses — When you need supplies, products, or services, one of the best things you can do is turn to your neighbors to fulfill your needs, especially smaller businesses.
Even if you don’t have much in the way of financial resources to help your community, there are many other affordable ways you can help. Search for a need, and then see if you have the resources to fill it.
2. Provide Your Employees With the Resources They Need
If this surreal year has taught us anything, it’s that things can go wrong at any time, and we can be blindsided by a crisis when we least expect it. No one foresaw COVID-19 spreading as far as it has and affecting such a large number of people.
You know your business needs an emergency fund, insurance policy, and access to credit in the event your income stream is disrupted. But what about your employees? Are they prepared for any calamity? Help your employees prepare for the unexpected by securing affordable group rates for insurance and offering them resources to help them pay for any catastrophes that emerge.
Be sure to look after your employees’ mental health as well. Remember, if members of your team aren’t used to working remotely, these last few months have likely been very hard on them. They are walking the fine line, trying to balance a new work situation with their personal lives. If they have children, this can be even more stressful as entire families trying to adapt to a situation filled with challenges and uncertainty.
Take good care of your employees during the coronavirus pandemic by touching base with them every day and offering them the support they need. This is one of the best things you can do, not only for your employees’ morale but also to help your business navigate these difficult times. The better your employees are equipped, the more they can do to help others, too.
3. Practice Civic Responsibility
All living beings on the planet are a part of one big ecosystem, and the same is true for our communities. You can do good for your community — and your brand — by demonstrating good citizenship.
- Share your knowledge and expertise to help others in need — With unemployment rates soaring during the pandemic, many people need to shift career tracks. Share your knowledge by offering free seminars or classes to those who could benefit from your skills.
- Sponsor or help fundraise in your community — The sky’s the limit here — you could sponsor local sports teams, raise money for camp scholarships, or set up a volunteer program and give your staff the time to help out.
- Donate funds as you are able to local, regional, national, or global relief efforts.
Whatever you can do to contribute to the betterment of your community can go a long way, especially during times of great need. Any acts of goodwill you can offer can touch many lives.
4. Recalibrate Expectations and Strategies
Many economic experts are predicting an economic downturn that can last for years. As a result, many businesses are shifting from an “unlimited growth” philosophy to one of conservation. The way we’ve done business in the past is changing dramatically, and this “new normal” the coronavirus pandemic has created will be long-lasting.
- Shift any assets you have to conserve resources — The better you can safeguard what you have, the more likely you’ll be able to sustain your position and be there for your customers and community.
- Get rid of what you don’t need — As you prepare for social distancing in your place of business, now is a good time to get rid of waste and consider downsizing your physical space. Recycle any old equipment you don’t need, and invest in all-in-one printer solutions to reduce your electronic footprint.
- Adjust to new economic realities — Realize your profit margin may not be as healthy as it has been during the past few years when the economy was booming. Establish a strategy to power through what may be a very difficult period.
Remember to also be open and honest with your employees. This way, they can prepare themselves and set their own expectations. If you think you might have trouble keeping your full staff on, let them know the situation and tell them how you hope to mitigate it. Don’t blindside them by laying them off or putting them on furloughs with no warning. Instead, be transparent about what you can — and what you can’t — do.
5. Invest in Green Initiatives
Not every business operates with its environmental impact in mind and, unfortunately, this in itself can lead to disaster with far-reaching effects. The company that ignores its environmental impact damages the Earth — and its own reputation. Don’t be that company. As your business moves forward with strategic planning, see what green initiatives you can integrate — doing so will help the Earth and boost your brand’s visibility in the process.
- Reduce your company’s carbon footprint — Allow employees to continue to work remotely, and offer a company shuttle for those who have to work on-site. Over the long-term, this will limit fossil fuel use and also, at least for the time being, help protect your employees from potential COVID-19 exposure on public transportation.
- Conserve paper resources —With cloud storage, online payments, and electronic transmissions, you don’t need to use as much paper you once did. Bottom line: Scaling back on paper use is good for the Earth, and you’ll cut your costs in the process. Win-win.
- Reduce your contribution to landfills —Explore ways you can implement reduction, recycling, reuse, composting, upcycling, and other ways to salvage materials. Distributing branded tote bags with helpful products inside not only shows that you care but can help keep plastic bags out of landfills.
- Integrate greener lighting options — Reduce your company’s use of electricity by installing windows and skylights to allow more natural light. You can also switch to energy-efficient LED bulbs, use light timers, and add more desk lamps (so the entire office doesn’t need to be lit up if just a handful of people are working). In this time of social distancing, your office probably won’t need to run your electricity at capacity if you’ve only got a skeleton crew working in-house.
- Have protective measures in place to avoid environmental mishaps — The more responsibly you act, the less chance you’ll have a chemical spill, hazardous fire, oil spill, or industrial explosion, to name a few potential crises.
- Make your fleet greener — Upgrading your vehicles to hybrid or electric is a good way to put your company values into practice. But if that’s prohibitively expensive, you could also invest in a fleet of standard-transmission cars. They’re cheaper to purchase and often have a long lifespan — which helps keep cars out of landfills. Train your employees to drive a stick shift and enjoy the savings, along with the benefits of being environmentally conscious.
There are numerous ways you can go green. Look around your facilities and learn how you can be more environmentally conscious. The best way to cope with disaster is to avoid it in the first place by proactively trying to prevent it.
6. Engage in Positive and Inspiring Marketing Efforts
Now is not the time to go full throttle with an aggressive marketing campaign. Instead, take a step back and market your company more strategically.
- Focus on empathy — If you engage in traditional TV, radio, and/or print advertising, send positive and empathetic messages.
- Emphasize outreach — Make a concentrated effort to reach out to the public through social media channels. Send out Facebook posts, tweets, or blog posts with helpful information, up-to-date news that affects your audience, and inspirational messages. Pursue other positive efforts to give your audience a lift during these difficult times.
- Strike the right tone — Check your scheduled content (blog posts or social media content) and ensure it reflects the situation and the times. You don’t want to send out tips on how to throw a big party or find the best restaurants best if many people are still under quarantine — such posts would come across as being out of touch and insensitive.
- Monitor social media comments — Make sure to monitor comments left on your social media pages (or your blog pages, if applicable) regularly, and acknowledge those who are thoughtful enough to offer feedback. Also, ensure people aren’t attacking one another if they disagree on how to respond to the pandemic, or about other issues. You might need to either step in to defuse arguments or, if they’re out of control, delete comments. You don’t want to battle a social media wildfire, because your brand could suffer long-term damage if a situation spirals out of control.
- Spotlight your efforts to help — Focus on content that showcases what you and your team are doing to help, or things everyone is doing from home during the pandemic. As your state reopens, start to share your reopening plans and how you plan to keep your employees and customers safe.
- Be sensitive to your audience — Be selective about any discounts and offers you send out because you don’t want to come across as trying to profit from a global pandemic disaster situation. Keep in mind: Tens of millions of people have lost their jobs during the past four months, and many may be fighting to hold on to their incomes.
Whatever messages you send out, try to be empathetic, encouraging, supportive, and upbeat. Never make jokes about COVID-19 or treat the pandemic lightly. And stay away from political issues associated with the pandemic; engaging in that dialogue seldom goes well.
Even if you, too, are strapped for cash because of the pandemic, you can help in other ways. Our modern world offers many great opportunities to incorporate more equitable, civic-minded, and green concepts into our practices. A little generosity can mean so much to so many.
Your actions can help to foster a more responsible, compassionate, socially, and environmentally conscious world. Show your employees — and your community — how you plan to make the world a better place. You might find your enthusiasm for the betterment of society is contagious, and you’ll find many others who want to help, too.