The coronavirus emergency has been a masterclass on how businesses should and shouldn’t react to a crisis.
In the latter category there’s Virgin Atlantic (where Richard Branson wasn’t prepared to give up even 1% of his £3 billion fortune to pay his out-of-work airline staff), J D Wetherspoon (who, after criticism of their reluctance to close their establishments, then threatened to not pay anyone, whether they be an employee or a supplier), and good ol’ Mike Ashley who, somewhat predictably, tried to open Sports Direct during the lockdown proclaiming that they were “uniquely well placed to help keep the UK as fit and healthy as possible during this crisis”.
You can change your mind, even offer your lorries to the NHS free-of-charge, but it’s your first, instinctive reaction that is probably the most genuine, and the one most likely to be remembered.
Ashley wasn’t alone in trying to exploit loopholes in the Government’s list of shops that were allowed to stay open. The somewhat blurred lines between what represents a fully blown food shop, a health shop, and a hardware shop, has seen the likes of The Range, Wilko and B&M come under fire for remaining open. Logically, non-essential sections of these types of store shouldn’t be open, although you could say the same for supermarkets.
Then there was jelly-legged footballer Jack Grealish, captain, no less, of Aston Villa, who, a few hours after posting a video on social media urging people to comply with the lockdown, forgot his own advice, jumped in his car and went to a party at a mate’s house. And, if that wasn’t bad enough, he then tried to drive home afterwards despite appearing a little ‘the worse for wear’, hitting two parked cars in the process, before disappearing for reasons that we can only speculate on.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. Far from it. There are people out there who get it. People who realise the importance of their own personal brand, as well as that of the organisation that they represent.
Step forward the likes of Hertz, who offered NHS staff car rental at £1 a day (one pound!), Iceland, who were the first to think of and roll out the one-hour shopping slot for senior citizens at the start of each day, a move copied by all their competitors, and BrewDog who, despite some teething problems, have donated over 50,000 bottles of their newly developed hand sanitiser to local NHS Trusts and charities.
On a smaller scale, I read of a copywriter in Birmingham offering to write companies’ coronavirus communications free-of-charge, something we’re happy to match too!
So, forget about special offers. Or even advertising at all. Just be nice. People have long memories.