Working with agile entrepreneurs, much of my communications work since the outbreak has centred around businesses reinventing themselves or temporarily pivoting to a new modus operandi.
With increased media engagement and news coverage has come an increased opportunity for those with a genuinely newsworthy and relevant story to share. Those quick to shift their business operations and delight their customers have had ample opportunity to broadcast this news to the world, while others who have been slow off the mark to implement change may have missed some opportunities.
To some degree it’s about recognising which opportunities to capitalise on and when. My client MAPPEN – an online curriculum with class plans for primary schools - was the first to inform me of the changes they were implementing as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. In fact, they were so quick to adapt their business that their thinking was further ahead than many schools which at the time had not yet begun to close. When they began calling primary schools who were already using their online curriculum as the basis for in-class teaching none had yet considered how they would adapt in the face of impending school closures (this was obviously before we all went into isolation).
This is why I love working with entrepreneurs and innovators. As a result of MAPPEN’s quick thinking, quick action and hard work in adapting their content for home learning (and making this free to all primary school students), we were able to get ahead of the news and secure stories in more than 100 outlets over the next eight weeks.
Not to negate all the obvious tragedy, fear, pain, heartbreak, poverty and death this virus has caused, but in looking at some of the positives, with crisis and forced change we’ve seen creativity in spades. Thinking differently, acting differently, pushing boundaries, reinvention and humour are now ubiquitous.
So, rather than telling you how to communicate through a crisis – there are plenty of excellent resources to guide you on this - I would instead like to share 3 of the creative reinventions I’ve seen coming out of this tragic and transformational period:
Dowie Doole’s Tasting Pod Packs
As a wine-lover, the prospect of not being able to escape to the Yarra Valley or Mornington Peninsula for a wine tour or weekend escape has saddened me. As reported by the ABC, 1 in 3 wineries are at risk of collapsing due to COVID-19, many without a strong retail or online presence. Cellar Door closures meant the experience and discovery needed to somehow shift online. While many wineries decided to offer virtual wine tastings, I found many of them operated around educating on a single bottle. Dowie Doole, however, crafted tasting pod packs with small bottles of 6 wines (even allowing me to just choose the reds) and 2 x wine glasses (as a serial wine glass breaker, I was down to my last one) – perfect for a home tasting experience with notes on each. Creative genius. Many wineries were also quick to offer ‘winesolation’ discounts, however research has shown 93% of customers actually prefer free shipping to discounts. Understanding how to best meet your customers’ needs is essential.
Cards Against Humanity Online
In-home entertainment options have also experienced a boom. From House Party to Jackbox Games, online game options began trending to connect friends and family across the world. In all honesty I don’t know if this existed pre-coronavirus but I was pleased to find that hilariously evil card game, Cards Against Humanity, is available online via Playingcards.io, rescuing some of my sanity during isolation. Dubbed ‘The Party Game for Horrible People,’ Cards Against Humanity can now be played online by up to 10 players in different houses.
Manufacturers pivoting to produce PPE Equipment
Necessity is the mother of invention. It would be remiss of me not to mention the multitude of organisations and manufacturers like Fab9 who have pivoted to develop Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) during COVID-19, and the distilleries like Archie Rose now producing hand sanitizer. These organisations have quickly developed a genuine solution to the growing shortage of these health products, thereby conducting a community service and putting their businesses in the spotlight. One of the most critical things organisations have needed to consider during this period, is ‘how do I want to be remembered?’ or ‘what reputation will I be left with post-COVID-19?’.
Side hustles have become main hustles, bricks and mortar businesses have quickly adopted or reinvigorated e-commerce capabilities and consumer behaviours have permanently changed. The future is uncertain. Opportunities for innovation and reinvention are far from over as we slowly re-invite a semblance of ‘normal’ back into our lives.
While this has been an extremely challenging period for all, some obviously more than others, it’s given businesses a chance to step back and reconsider everything.
So… what can you do differently? Which parts of your business could go online? Have you talked to your customers about what they want to see? Have you seen other examples from your industry?
ABOUT ELISE HENDRIKSEN
Founder of Shout PR, publicist and story-teller, Elise Hendriksen lives for the rush of seeing clients consistently feature in leading news publications. Working with entrepreneurs and startups through to multi-million-dollar global FMCGs, she’s passionate about finding the best story and connecting it with the right journalists at the right time. Her clients are calculated risk-takers, multi-business founders, and leaders passionate about disrupting their industries.