Why businesses should focus on community during (and after) COVID-19

Business goes on but many in your audience are struggling through hardship. Here’s how communicators can strike the right tone.

As the globe is told to stay inside for the safety of themselves and their community, the giving and gifting economy has replaced traditional exchanges. In these unprecedented times, many industries are unable to offer services to their customers.

Has your company inspired enough people to keep supporting the business because they want it to survive the pandemic?

This question belies a more fundamental reality: the need for community. Communities are a source of resilience and support during trying and normal times, and every business should be engaging and interacting with their customers, particularly their regulars, like members of their family.

Luckily, modern technology means that communication and interaction can be easily facilitated online.

What community means

When businesses build communities, customers feel connected to the business and support it without necessarily receiving anything in exchange. Values, purpose and a sense of doing something for the greater good inspire those with the resources to donate during trying times.

It’s likely your company already has a mission statement, but how are you communicating that mission? Is it prominently displayed on your website, in your store, in your merchandise, on your social platforms and among your employees? Do you regularly take actions in-line with that mission to demonstrate your commitment?

It is past the time when making a commitment is enough. Business leaders should take action that inspires their neighbors when they can, so the public can in turn uplift and support them during tough times.

Just as important as what you say, to build community you must also listen. Once you are communicating your mission, what is the response? Does it resonate with your audience? Are you seeing an increase in supportive online comments, donations and purchases? How do prominent community leaders respond?

Tracking and assessing a community engagement program across several metrics is essential to success, and building a community of supporters is good for the long-term success of your business.

Community’s value

Across the country, people have been inspired to take actions and businesses have adapted to foster community virtually. Restaurants, gyms and other members of the service economy have been particularly hard-hit by COVID-19. In response, residents and members have bought gift cards to their favorite establishments, put money into “virtual tip jars” and continued their memberships despite a reduction of classes and services. GoFundMe pages are popping up to support coaches at popular gyms, as well as DJs, writers and others who are unable to work during the pandemic. Collectively, these campaigns have raised $40 million over the past few weeks.

In turn, many of these same coaches, DJs, writers, and performers have taken to social media to give back as well. Trainers and yogis are working out via Zoom, DJs are playing sets on Instagram live, and entertainers like Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon and Ben Platt are going live from their homes.

The scale of coronavirus is unprecedented, but people are stepping up across the globe to support each other. The businesses that built communities and a network before the pandemic are already proving to be more resilient throughout it.

A business that can inspire people to give during a time of shortages, hoarding, and uncertainty, is certainly a business that will have a long and successful future.

Michael Galfetti is a senior account executive at Rokk Solutions.  

Want more about how to respond to the COVID-19 crisis and other reputational issues for business? Join Ragan’s Crisis Communications Virtual Conference March 31.

COMMENT

3 Responses to “Why businesses should focus on community during (and after) COVID-19”

    Jessica says:

    I think he makes such a great point, everyone should be pulling together during these times and helping out the community where they can. Wonderful piece, very well said!

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