May 15, 2020

Communicating What's Next

Businesses need to stop telling us that these are unprecedented times and start telling us what’s next.

Ever since the “CSI effect” took root in the courts, influencing jurors’ increasing standard of proof, the American public has been decidedly more invested in data-driven facts. We see this playing out generally in the court of public opinion including approval ratings for politicians. Currently, public opinion polls indicate that majority constituents view their respective governors favorably and don’t have opinions on governors of other states, however New York State’s Gov. Andrew Cuomo is enjoying nationwide praise and support. Cuomo’s success can be attributed to many factors, notably his data-driven approach that includes: 

  • personal, frequent communications that provide an assessment of the facts “on the ground”
  • rolling out a real-time COVID data dashboard on New York State’s NY.gov website
  • publishing both the metrics and the data on a dashboard for the “re-opening” of New York’s regions for public consumption.

In order to get the economy restarted, the American public needs assurances supported by facts, not opinions. Recent US polls have increasingly pointed to the conclusion that many individuals and employees are not ready to go back to work despite the push from Federal and some state governments to open up for business. This suggests that American employees and retail customers may be waiting on the sidelines for key assurances. Furthermore, they’re demonstrating a willingness to compromise their own expectations of a normal return to life before the COVID pandemic.

Who can blame them? With so much uncertainty about COVID, people want stronger assurances from retailers and businesses; specifically what plans are in place to mitigate the spread of COVID, both airborne and highly transmissible. Businesses must field questions covering a wide range of concerns, such as HVAC, UV technology, cleaning frequencies, PPE availability, occupancy limits, barriers and temperature checks, to name a few. If we can boil it down to the most basic of concerns, the American public wants to know that businesses value people over profits.

To move forward, businesses need to overcome this new threshold of skepticism. The public has shown its reserve by successfully social distancing, so now businesses need to answer the new question “What’s Next” – how will businesses move forward, together with those they serve. A data-driven public is not solely an economic consumer but an information consumer – stakeholders in the classic sense -- of the US economy.

Businesses should share their decision-thinking with public stakeholders for feedback to help shape their go-forward strategy. More importantly, businesses must develop a deeper dialogue to win, or win back, the public’s trust (including the trust of their own employees). Like the popular state governors taking action at the beginning of the pandemic and throughout, businesses should project leadership and should be willing to publicly change course in response to either of public concerns or pandemic conditions. Businesses shouldn’t wait on politicians or actuaries to begin a discourse with their key customers and business partners, and more importantly, keep the discourse throughout the pandemic.

At JVComms, we held frequent conversations about the pandemic situation with employees with openness and transparency. Since we’re a data-driven team, our operations were always flexible yet resilient, and were able to respond to the pandemic before New York state started official social distance measures. We communicated CDC and WHO best practices until we implemented our Work From Home protocol, over a week before the NY PAUSE went into effect.  As a crisis agency, we understand the value of continuous communications under duress and extenuating circumstances.

Here’s what’s next for us: We’re developing a new metrics and analytics consultancy to help businesses communicate with their employees and customers – Informative Signals – extending our philosophy of big, open thinking that’s backed by data-driven processes. Here’s where we will start: 

Helping main street retail prepare to be open and ready for business, and reassure consumers by: 

  • designing a system using commercial-off-the-shelf products to track retail space occupancy
  • developing metrics for masked and unmasked occupants not dependent on facial recognition
  • delivering simple cost-effective IOT solutions for signaling frontline workers at POS or entrances

Perhaps our starting point isn’t original, but it’s big, it’s open, it’s actionable and we’re opening a dialogue to provide optimism for what’s next.  Ultimately, we’re putting people over profits. Because it’s what we think is right, it’s what we advise our clients is right, and it’s what we are hearing loud and clear from consumers across America right now.

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