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The COVID-19 crisis needs planning, not partisanship or platitudes

man holding up dominoes from falling

The hope as the initial wave of COVID-19 spread across America in March was for the curve to flatten and cases be on the decline by August.

As Yogi Berra famously said, “It’s déjà vu all over again.”

Or, if you prefer The Who to the New York Yankees, “Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.”

In any crisis, hope is not a strategy.

Not only are cases NOT declining, they are spiraling out of control in many states. There is no second wave on the horizon this fall because we never left the first wave.

So now what? If you’re a small business, retailer, restaurant owner or in the service industry, then the world is a dark tunnel seemingly with no light at the end.

Readers of this blog in recent months have seen us repeatedly stress the importance of navigating the three phases of a crisis:

  1. Stop the bleeding (aka “damage control”)
  2. Win hearts and minds
  3. Restore your reputation

As a nation, leaders at the federal and state levels are still struggling to find or build public consensus on cohesive, consistent messages and strategies that will help them move out of phase 1. They can’t convince the public of their credibility because of these inconsistencies and an inability to clearly articulate a path forward.

If you are a “non-essential” business, you’re often left to decipher the best path forward based on what you see in the most recent 24-hour news cycle or (even more frightening) amid the clutter of social media. Beyond that, with the retail, restaurant, and service industries decimated, any push to safely and sustainably reopen is roadblocked because no type of plan has even a majority consent at any level of government.

Sometimes, if you want something done right, you need to do it yourself.

Partisanship and diametrically opposed views of how this crisis should be managed keep our politicians in many states and both parties in D.C. far apart in terms of solutions. They are still trying to stop the bleeding.

In the absence of guidance from policy leaders, it falls upon business owners in the hardest-hit sectors to create their own pathway to success and inform decision makers in their state capitals and Washington, D.C., of the blueprint that will keep their businesses open.

These groups must band together collectively to win hearts and minds with a clear narrative based upon what we continue to believe are the bedrocks of an effective story: authenticity, fluency and engagement.

Continuing to shout from the rooftops that “we need to get back to work” or “schools need to reopen” are statements everyone can get behind, but where is the how? In the absence of a strategic plan, these words ring as empty to our elected leaders as their words of advice have to so many of their constituents.

Advocacy must inspire action and deliver measurable ROI. It must answer the critical questions: Why this issue? Why now? Why your business or organization?

The answer, as always, resides in starting to share your organization’s story from a place of truth, using your top internal experts to articulate it and then constantly reading your target audience to measure the effectiveness of your key messages.

It’s long been our belief – backed by decades of our own expert experience – that every business or organization has at least one great story to tell: its own.

If the goal from the beginning has been for the government to keep workers employed and businesses afloat while we navigate the public health dangers of this crisis, then you must make the case for yourself and the type of ongoing economic assistance you need to survive and outlast the pandemic.

In this climate, in this time, every business is “essential.”

Change the narrative. Chart a new course.

Or as Yogi Berra also famously said, “When you see a fork in the road, take it.”

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