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What is Your COVID-19 Brand Story?

Lisa Daniel

The question might be gauche, were it not for the fact that all of us have a coronavirus story, just as those who remember 9/11, Pearl Harbor, and the Great Depression have stories about living through those historical events. Our audiences gain insights, and form opinions, by what we choose to show and tell. Years from now, our collective stories will likely include stay-at-home orders, face masks, and toilet paper shortages, and perhaps the background noise of partisan divisiveness and the angst of economic recession. Individually, we’ll expose how these times shaped us, challenged us to do things differently, and hopefully compelled us to do better. 

Every brand, too, has a story about the global pandemic. For those on the front lines, a brand can soar or sour based on whether or not  it delivered – if a hospital treated everyone who came to it, if a medical research team made important new findings, or if a technology company rolled out helpful innovations. The actions taken, and the information shared, creates a narrative that is viewed in the context of the brand. Here are some ways Yes& clients have shaped their brands throughout the pandemic:

Stamford Health underscored its vision to be the most trusted healthcare provider in the southwestern Connecticut region by planning early to get ahead of the virus that was overloading nearby New York City hospitals. With early preparations, outreach, and collaboration with local, state, and federal officials, as well as competitors, Stamford secured enough capacity, equipment, and supplies to not only meet its needs, but to assist throughout the area. At the same time, it built a command-and-control structure that gave real-time visibility of capacity and operations, as well as a constant communication flow both internally and externally. The staff’s hard work earned public praise, aligning with its brand

Dun & Bradstreet Government Solutions, a leading global provider of business decision-making data and analytics, provided early and ongoing market intelligence of the coronavirus’ economic impact. Dun & Bradstreet uses data to give targeted insights to customers that range from helping hard-hit small businesses thrive to advising governments about industry infrastructure to identifying risks in supply chains. Dun & Bradstreet’s proactive approach came at a critical time as it continues to grow its brand beyond being one of the world’s longest-standing financial reporting firms to that of a data analytics powerhouse.

Tableau’s mission of helping people see and understand data shone through when it jumped in early to help make sense of the vast and disparate information pouring in about COVID-19. In an aim toward public service, Tableau created a starter kit that can be downloaded and customized to jump-start custom analyses, in addition to developing dashboards with state, local and federal governments to analyze the spread of the virus, PPE availability, testing metrics, and more.   

AFCEA Bethesda honed its brand as the premier professional organization for civilian government-industry collaboration when it created an alternative to canceling a heavy lineup of upcoming events in the face of social distancing. Leaning on its expert communications output and loyal slate of speakers, AFCEA Bethesda has maintained a robust schedule of expertly-produced and well-attended virtual events, and even created new ones in the process.

Bozzuto is a real estate and property management company that promises sanctuary in its properties. It also is known for hosting events and providing amenities that bring residents together. Having everyone return home on indefinite telework—while under social distancing orders—could have presented a challenge. But the Bozzuto team embraced this new normal by creating the #bozzutostayshome campaign to bring its communities together online with live, virtual events and content. To share its story, they added some brand-aligned messaging: “Providing residents with a constant source of comfort and hope they can look forward to during this time of isolation… and to explore what sanctuary can be.”

The pandemic is replete with stories of brands that innovated outside their standard offerings, put employees at the center of business decisions, or adopted a new community focus. All will be asked how they reacted in this defining moment, and should have a ready and polished answer. The answer may have different details for stakeholders, as customers’ interests may be different from those of employees or investors. What is certain is that all will compare the organization’s coronavirus story with its brand.

Yes& is the Washington, DC-based marketing agency that brings commercial, association, and government clients the unlimited power of “&” – using a full suite of branding, digital, event, marketing, public relations, and creative capabilities to deliver meaningful and measurable results.

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Lisa Daniel
Lisa Daniel
Senior Writer/Strategist