The end of the pandemic might be edging into sight, which for many organizations will mean adjusting from the “new normal” that the past two years have represented to a return to ways and priorities that might feel distant.
For several organizations that saw their fortunes boosted significantly during the pandemic, a return to the old normal might be especially difficult, given that the pandemic skewed their popularity so out of whack. An obvious one is Peloton, the exercise company whose fortunes soared as homebound consumers fed on a frenzy for connected exercise. Faced with a backlog of orders, Peloton ramped up production, hired generously, and fixed its horizon on a seemingly limitless future.
Of course, Peloton came crashing back to earth as it found itself overextended. Similarly, other pandemic darlings — organizations like Zoom and Etsy — now find themselves faced with managing their brands with a new growth trajectory, one that will depend much more on their established customer base than on rapid expansion.
Adjusting to post-pandemic expectations can test even the most competent organization, but here are four tips that make it more likely that your brand can weather a return to normal with minimal hiccups or setbacks:
1. Don’t forget your core stakeholders. Communicate ways that loyal followers can get even more engaged with the brand. Remind your audiences of your brand value through storytelling, narrative, and purpose-driven communications across your channels.
Many Peloton customers are fanatics, following individual instructors on Instagram and exchanging recommendations about high-energy classes. By returning its focus to cultivating loyal customers and deepening relationships, rather than chasing frantic growth, an organization can protect its brand’s reputation and make it less likely that once-predictable customers grow discouraged and drift away.
Similarly, brands like Etsy, which grew rapidly as homebound consumers turned to shopping online for crafts and gifts, should now make sure that they tend to their loyal suppliers and customers first. By deepening connections with existing customers, including offering new products and services based on existing behavior, brand managers are more likely to provide a source of consistent growth.
2. Reframe your story and tell it consistently. It’s likely that your brand story is not the same as it was a year ago. To some customers who drifted away, you will need to reintroduce yourself.
Communicate your new goals to customers and stakeholders, and with them some expectations that your most loyal audiences can depend on you to fulfill. If you’re a retailer, what should customers expect when they return to your brick-and-mortar stores, and what incentives are you providing to engage them? If supply chain issues have caused problems with product availability, what are you doing to help ensure a return to normal operations?
If the current jump in inflation is affecting your business, prepare your customers and stakeholders for the possibility that prices may be going up.
3. Prioritize internal communications. Your employees, like your customers, are coming off of a long slog. Your company might have had to enact furloughs or layoffs to deal with the effects of the pandemic. Don’t forget to engage employees as you ramp operations back to full speed. Communicating clearly and honestly about prospects with a rattled and overextended workforce could help to stem any further tide of employee loss in this key moment.
With employees increasingly motivated and feeling free to speak out on matters of public policy and current events, as well as internal issues, making sure that you communicate your values to your internal audience could help to avoid hits to your external reputation.
4. Remain optimistic. Your clients and customers, like all of us, have endured a lengthy trauma, and many of them are not necessarily looking forward to a return to the “old normal.” But they need to hear from you that you are ready to return to a rhythm of business that reflects your continued devotion to your product or service, its organic growth and your goals and values.
No one knows what life will be like once the emergency stage of the pandemic is fully behind us. And for many customers who have entered your orbit in the last two years, they won’t ever know what the old normal with your brand was like.
So, prepare for the post-pandemic period as if it were an initial introduction of yourself to a new stable of stakeholders. Educate them about your values, let them know that you’re focused on the long term, and set realistic expectations for what you — and they — can expect to achieve.
Edward Wyatt is a senior vice president on the communications team at Precision Strategies.