STAY CONNECTED—EVEN DURING COVID-19.
There’s a scene in the 2019 Oscar-winning masterpiece Parasite that I can’t get out of my head. Ki-woo and his father Ki-taek lay awake on a gym floor, surrounded by displaced locals after a devastating flood. Ki-woo asks his dad the plan, something Ki-taek had mentioned just scenes earlier. His response: “No plan. You know why? If you make a plan, life never works out that way.”
With legally-mandated “me time” and yet another box of mac & cheese, I can’t help but feel like Ki-taek. I also had a plan before COVID-19—leave my cushy job and hustle hard as a full-time freelancer. I quit and secured a gig that would allow me to work from home 40 hours a week (the dream). Then, it fell through because of the pandemic. Now, all my old coworkers tackle their to-do lists from the couch. I laugh at the irony, even if my mama doesn’t yet.
Obviously, I’m not the only one whose plan didn’t pan out. Up to 195 million workers are expected to lose their jobs due to COVID-19, and the economy is facing nightmares I’d really rather not Google at the moment. And whether you have a career plan or a business plan, that plan has likely gone off the rails.
Nobody hopes to be an out-of-work freelancer, to run a shutdown bar, to manage a canceled music festival, or even to own a functioning grocery store forced to put employees at risk. Things are hard for everyone, and nobody knows how to react.
But if you run a business—no matter how large or small—now’s not the time to go silent.
Your audience is still there—in fact, they’re more captive than ever. They’re probably not ready to buy (more on this later), but they’re ready to listen. There are only nine seasons of The Office, and the Gmail app is right next to TikTok anyway. If you want your audience to support you when all this is over, support them now. Talk to them. Be kind. Be honest. Make them remember you, for the better.
Before you fire off emails and social posts, remember that there’s a big difference between communicating and selling (big, huge!). The pandemic isn’t an opportunity to push your products, or to market your company as a solution to COVID-19. It’s tasteless, and my gut tells me that’s off-brand for you. If you have an offering that benefits those affected by coronavirus, by all means, tell that story. But if you want your audience to be loyal, you have to be honest.
And no matter what business you own, there’s a way to communicate honestly with your audience right now, and give them something valuable.
Let’s say you manage a local movie theatre. Wouldn’t your audience love to know what your employees are watching at home, or how they’d rate the latest films?
Or, let’s say you work in the travel industry. Now’s a great time to give people a mental getaway with vivid imagery and positive, “this will be over eventually” messaging.
Okay, maybe your business is a little more complicated...a cloud-based software company. If it’s on-brand, why not give people a little chuckle with a post about being pros at social distancing?
Perhaps you’re a freelancer like me. Show the world your skills by writing blogposts just like this—then send ‘em my way, cause I’m running out of TED Talks...
It’s even okay if you don’t have a message to share. There are countless stories that need to be heard right now, and you have an audience. Think about who your brand aligns with, and share their content. If you own a local business, share posts about ways your audience can support the community, or inspiring stories from your customers. If you run an online store, dive deep into your social communities to find relevant content by other creators. Not only will you give your audience value, you’ll probably make the creator’s day—just always remember to ask for permission and tag them!
At some point, the curve will flatten, businesses will open, and friends will hug and hug and hug. If you stay present for your audience now, they’ll be here for you when that time comes. So stay connected, be kind, be honest, and share value—even if it’s not yours. Life will go back to normal. Take care until then.