On January 19, 2021, Logos Associate Holly Helstrom was quoted in a Forbes article about the struggle many organizations are facing around COVID-19 vaccination policies. The article details how companies are split in terms of whether or not to require employees to get the vaccine respectively.
Helstrom, an Adjunct Instructor at Columbia University’s Fu Foundation School of Engineering who teaches a course on First Amendment rights for employees, explained that an employer has the legal right to introduce a COVID-19 vaccine policy if they’re a private sector at-will employer.
“Refusal to get a Covid-19 vaccine if your employer is requiring one could get you fired and your employer would be within their legal rights to do so,” said Helstrom.
Helstrom advised organizations to use its values to guide vaccination decisions. “Having clarity on one’s values, whether from the employer or employee perspective, can make the decision easier,” she said. “If individual liberty is more important to you than job security, your decision when navigating this question as an employee will be much easier.”
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The first American case of COVID-19 was diagnosed on January 20, 2020.
Exactly one year later Joe Biden will be sworn in as the 46th President of the United States.
What happened in the United States in between is different from what happened in other developed countries.
Twenty million Americans contracted COVID-19 between the first case and the end of the year.
2020 was the single deadliest year in American history. The first U.S. COVID-19 fatality was on February 6. By year end another 351 thousand Americans had died from the virus. For context, that is more than all the U.S. combat fatalities in World War II and Vietnam combined, but in a single eleven-month period rather than in the 24 years of those wars. For several weeks in December we were seeing the equivalent of a 9/11 casualty rate every day, with total 2020 COVID-19 fatalities equal to 118 separate 9/11 attacks.
Much of this was avoidable. And yet, here we are. So the question is – why did this happen?
It was a year that changed everything: what it means to be “at work” or “at school”; how we visit the doctor; how we greet each other; how we shop for groceries and other goods; how we say goodbye to loved ones as they take their final breath.
It was a year of great trauma: medical, emotional, spiritual, economic, social.
And it was a year that saw great sacrifice and some of the best of humanity: in the front-line medical workers, in the agility of many companies to re-imagine their business models and their product offerings, in the emergence of a new class of heroes – postal workers, delivery drivers, and grocery clerks, who risked infection to keep us supplied.
And it was a year that intensified much that had already been fraying in the fabric of American civic life: hyper-polarization in politics, mistrust of each other and of civic institutions, and the shattering of social and political norms.
After decades of one party discrediting science – from refusing to accept the reality of evolution, to redefining when human life begins, to denying the reality of climate change – we saw millions of Americans deny what scientists, public health experts, and their own doctors told them: that the virus is real, that it is deadly, that you can transmit it even when asymptomatic; and that masking, distancing, and handwashing are keys to prevention. The American population seemed to divide into those who believe what science teaches and those who choose not to. But as a popular T-shirt and internet meme noted, Science Doesn’t Care What You Believe.
The pandemic coincided with one of the most bizarre and contentious presidential election campaigns in American history, in which despite no evidence of fraud the sitting president refused to acknowledge defeat and lost more than 50 lawsuits challenging the results. And who for the eight weeks between the election and the new year seemed to give up on being president. He stayed out of sight and silent on anything having to do with the pandemic, even as fatalities approached the 350 thousand mark and infections soared to 20 million, and as he rage-tweeted about the so-called “massive fraud” that had prevented his re-election.
But the hardships were real and were devastating. In the weeks before and after Christmas, hospitalization rates reached record highs, with whole regions, including southern California, reporting zero intensive care beds available. At least one Los Angeles hospital started treating patients in the gift shop; another in a cafeteria; yet another in its chapel. But the real shortage was of medical personnel to treat the record number of patients. Doctors began talking about the need to choose which patients to treat, and which to leave to die.
The nation saw the infection rate grow by a million cases every few days. And despite pleas from public health officials and hospital front-line workers, Americans continued to travel for the holidays, risking what health workers called a surge on top of a surge. And some governors refused to require citizens to wear masks in public. Florida’s governor even forbade Florida cities and counties from requiring masks and social distancing in their jurisdictions. And the White House, the State Department, and other federal agencies held dozens of holiday parties indoors and without a masking requirement: yet more super-spreader events.
It did not need to be this way.
Much of the suffering, the hardship, the sacrifice could have been avoided. It resulted from a lethal combination of incompetence, dishonesty, and neglect.
The United States, alone in the world, intentionally refused to follow or mandate basic public health steps: a national masking, distancing, testing, and contact tracing policy. There was no whole of government response; at best there were fragments of government responses. And some parts of the government seemed to be at war against other parts. Indeed, some parts of government seemed to be at war against themselves, such as the White House Pandemic Task Force, where in a single press conference the politicians would contradict the public health experts, and vice versa.
The president and other senior government officials modeled the opposite of the public health guidelines, remaining unmasked in public and holding super-spreader events where the crowd was unmasked and packed close together – in violation also of local masking and distancing ordinances.
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On December 22, 2020, Logos Associate Holly Helstrom was quoted in an article on Workable.com on the best practices for a COVID-19 vaccination policy for businesses. Workable, a recruitment software company, surveyed a variety of legal experts on whether and how employers can mandate a COVID-19 vaccine for their employees.
Helstrom, an an Adjunct Instructor at Columbia University’s Fu Foundation School of Engineering who teaches a course on First Amendment rights for employees, explained that an employer has the legal right to introduce a COVID-19 vaccine policy if they’re a private sector at-will employer.
“This is a product of how US labor law and the Constitution are written,” Helstrom noted. “Employers can and have fired employees based on lifestyle choices related to their health, including if they smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol. Refusal to get a COVID vaccine if your employer is requiring one could get you fired and your employer would be within their legal rights to do so.“
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On December 16, 2020, Logos Associate Holly Helstrom was quoted in an article on Healthline on how at-will employers can mandate a COVID-19 vaccine for their employees.
Helstrom, an an Adjunct Instructor at Columbia University’s Fu Foundation School of Engineering who teaches a course on First Amendment rights for employees, explained that an employer has the legal right to mandate policies around lifestyle choices and employers have fired people for lifestyle choices in the past.
“Employers can and have fired employees based on lifestyle choices related to their health, including if they smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol,” she said. “Refusal to get a COVID vaccine if your employer is requiring one could get you fired and your employer would be within their legal rights to do so.”
Helstrom explained that, “your employer is within their legal rights to require you to get a COVID vaccine, if you work for a private sector at-will employer.” However, she did note that rules around vaccination for unionized workers “would likely be a subject for bargaining.”
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The COVID-19 pandemic, a crisis has radically reshaped the dining experience and caused a devasting impact on a once booming industry. A September survey by the National Restaurant Association found that 43 percent of full-service operators and 33 percent of limited service operations do not expect to still be in business in six months of things continue as they are. And restaurants are anticipating a total loss of $240 billion this year as a result of the pandemic.
In many ways, the ingenuity of owners and managers has enabled many restaurants to survive this prolonged crisis. As restaurants have introduced innovative solutions to continue serving their customers, such as curb-side pick-up, delivery and drive thru options, or expanded their business to grocery services, the industry has seen marginal gains since the spring. But it has not been enough.
The unfortunate reality is that it is unlikely the industry will be able to bounce back in the coming months. And the restaurant experience when we finally emerge from this pandemic will likely look much different than it did before.
So, what can restaurants at this point in this crisis?
Take Risks Seriously
The US response to COVID-19 pandemic is, in my opinion, the single worst handled crisis in our nation’s history. At the time of writing this, more than 10 million Americans have contracted COVID-19, and nearly a quarter million people have died. And this could have been avoided.
A study published in October by Columbia University’s National Center for Disaster Preparedness found that between 130,000 to 210,000 American fatalities would have been avoided if the nation had consistently applied policies equivalent to what other developed democracies had done.
A foundational principle of crisis response is to understand the scope and specifically the risks that a crisis represents, and then to do all that is necessary to mitigate those risks. The longer it takes to do that, the worse the crisis will get.
As we have seen, the federal government, in particular the current occupant of the White House, failed to take the risks of the pandemic seriously. And President Trump continues to diminish or ignore the risks of COVD-19, even as infection rates spike and more members of his administration test positive for the virus.
The changing of administrations may turn the tide of the country’s response, but we have quite some time before President-Elect Biden can enact meaningful change. In the meantime, the continued lack of a coherent federal response before the inauguration will likely to cause even more harm.
As cases surge across the country, restaurants need to take the risks of COVID-19 seriously. And that means recognizing that half measures won’t work in the long run.
While it may be tempting to continue indoor dining as we head into winter, the growing infection rate, as well as sporadic mask-wearing and social distancing policies across the country, will likely make indoor dining less safe, putting both customers and employees at risk. Restaurants need to recognize and take these risks seriously, and to be prepared to take decisive action early to protect their customers and their employees.
Foresee the Foreseeable
Many crises are not foreseeable. But months into this crisis, there are some thing we can foresee.
We are now in the third wave of the pandemic. In early November, we saw back-to-back record highs for daily cases. The likelihood, if things remain unchanged, is that we will reach a quarter million deaths by Thanksgiving.
President-Elect Joe Biden has signaled that he will take a far more aggressive approach to COVID, and has begun revealing a national strategy. In his acceptance speech, Biden declared, “We cannot repair the economy, restore our vitality, or relish life’s most precious moments… until we get this virus under control.” He continued, “I will spare no effort — or commitment — to turn this pandemic around.”
Restaurants need to be prepared for Biden to enact some form of restrictions for as long as necessary to control the virus. That means restaurants have time to prepare what will foreseeably be one of Biden’s first acts as president.
Take the Pain
No one wants the country to shut down. There is a real and lived cost for all of us in this moment of collective crisis, one that will be felt for years to come. But one of the principles of crisis management is that sometimes we need to take the pain in the short-term in order to thrive in the long-term. This is one of those times.
Restaurants have already taken the brunt of the pain during this pandemic. And previous governmental relief for the restaurant industry has fallen short.
However, restaurants will need to be prepared to take the pain of drastically reducing their operations again, of furloughing their employees, or of shutting down for some period of time. This is a difficult decision for any business make. But it is the only way that we as a nation will make it through this crisis, and ultimately the only way the restaurant industry will be able to truly thrive again.
As restaurants will need to make difficult, but necessary, decisions to protect their customers and staff, the restaurant industry can also be proactive in fighting for relief. Since June, the National Restaurant Association, the Independent Restaurant Association, and other have been actively lobbying for expanded relief for the industry. And as the government transitions in January, the industry may find new allies to aid this cause and ensure the long-term viability of the restaurant industry going forward.
Plan for the Future
While it will likely be necessary to take the pain in the short-term, restaurants can also plan for the long-term.
In crisis management, we know that in every crisis there is opportunity. COVID-19 has changed nearly every part of our society and daily lives. As we come out of this crisis, the restaurant industry, like many others, will not look the same as it did before the pandemic. But that does not mean it cannot as good as it was before. Or that it can be even better.
The industry has already demonstrated its resiliency in the creative ways that restaurants have adapted their business models to survive during the pandemic. Should a national shut down happen, restaurants can use that time to be proactive and plan how they will rebuild after the pandemic has ended.
What will the restaurant and dining experience be after COVID-19? Restaurants can take this time to re-imagine what this experience can be like in a post-COVID-19 world, and then organize their resources to re-invent and re-invigorate both their companies and the industry as a whole.
The restaurant industry has a long road ahead to get through this crisis. But by making smart decisions in a timely way, restaurants can get through this crisis – and help us all do the same.
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Overnight the world learned that President Trump and the First Lady both tested positive for COVID-19. I wish them a full recovery.
But our challenge isn’t that Trump has COVID-19; it’s that the nation does. And it didn’t have to be this way.
A Teachable Moment: Patterns of Crisis
We are in a very teachable moment.
Crises follow predictable patterns. One is that most harm in a crisis is self-inflicted. Sometimes the initial crisis event itself is self-inflicted. But even when it isn’t, most of the loss of trust, confidence, and competitive position is self-inflicted because of an ineffective response.
A foundational principle of crisis response is to understand the scope and severity of a crisis and the risks it represents, and to respond based on those risks. Donald Trump never did.
On January 28 Trump’s national security advisor told him that COVID-19 would be the single largest national security threat in his presidency.
Dr. Irwin Redlener, Director of Columbia University’s Pandemic Resource & Response Initiative
On February 7 Trump admitted to Washington Post Associate Editor Bob Woodward that COVID-19 is spread in the air and is more deadly than the flu.
Compartmentalize the problem or solution. Trump did.
Tell misleading half truths. Trump did.
Lie. Trump did.
Tell only part of what you did. Trump did.
Blame others for your failures. Trump did.
Over-confess. On this one, Trump did not.
Panic, leading to bad decision-making. Trump did.
Shoot the messenger when you receive bad news. Trump did.
Trump has committed nine of the ten missteps when it comes to COVID-19.
The Human Consequences of the Missteps
COVID-19 cases on October 2, 202
Unlike other crises, this has had significant human consequence. At least 75 percent of the cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. would not have happened. And 150,000 people, according to Dr. Redlener, would still be alive.Leaders are judged based on how they deal with their most significant challenges. Trump failed this leadership test. Given the magnitude of the failure of crisis response after Trump was fully aware of the risks, this may be the single worst failure of leadership in American history.
I have previously published that I believe Trump’s handling of COVID-19 to be the single worst handled crisis, and largest leadership failure, in American history.
Again, I wish both the President and the First Lady a full recovery. But perhaps now we can move to a national masking, social distancing, contract tracing, and testing policy.
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NEW YORK (May 13, 2020) — As the nation begins implementing plans to reopen, Logos Consulting Group will continue practicing social distancing while also providing the personal touch our clients expect.
“Connecting closely with clients is and always will be our highest priority, in whatever form that takes,” said Helio Fred Garcia, president of Logos Consulting Group. “These are some of the hardest times for many leaders and organizations, which is why it is more important than ever before for us to be available.”
Logos Consulting Group helps leaders and their organizations manage choices when stakes are high, communicate effectively when trust is on the line, and strengthen leadership skills to inspire action.
“We have been advising institutions and their leaders directly in the midst of COVID-19,” added Garcia. “Right now, we’re providing immediate counsel to clients in both our crisis management and crisis communication practice, as well as virtual coaching for multiple leadership levels and designated spokespeople.”
Logos Consulting Group has also been studying trends on leadership in COVID-19 and has written and spoken extensively about these findings. Logos associates have spoken publicly at a variety of webinars, virtual conferences, and coaching sessions including the Defense Innovation Network, Public Relations Society of America, Professional Speechwriters Association/Executive Communication Council, and others to include events for our clients. Topics have included best practices in communication during COVID-19, maintaining powerful presence in a remote environment, effective social media messaging, and more.
“This is not the end of the crisis, it is the end of the beginning,” said Garcia. “We are not slowing down, and if anything, we are making ourselves more available than ever before by guiding our clients through this crisis.”
To explore how Logos Consulting Group can help you, contact us via email here or via our website here.
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Crises reveal what organizations value. Whether a business demonstrates corporate responsibility during the COVID-19 pandemic, or fails to do so, can determine if the company and its leaders emerge from this crisis with the trust and confidence of their stakeholders intact.
Definitions of corporate responsibility have evolved from an exclusive focus on shareholder returns, to the acknowledgment by businesses of a much broader group of corporate stakeholders and range of responsibilities. Acting responsibly today means more than legal compliance and goes beyond corporate philanthropy.
At its core, corporate responsibility means meeting stakeholder expectations for responsible conduct. Meeting both the financial and non-financial expectations of its investors, customers, employees, business partners, suppliers, regulators, and the communities where it operates, helps a company to manage risk, protect its reputation, attract and retain employees, grow its markets, and sustain its financial performance.
Demonstrating corporate responsibility is a key challenge for business leaders in the best of times. As my colleague Helio Fred Garcia observes, the COVID-19 crisis comprises simultaneous crises (public health, business, economic, information, governance, social, mental health) of unprecedented scope that require a multi-dimensional leadership response. 
Unprecedented in its scope, the COVID-19 pandemic is an opportunity for companies and their leaders to live their values by acting responsibly.
When navigating next steps during the pandemic, business leaders should keep in mind key principles for demonstrating corporate responsibility.
Understand the potential impacts of your crisis response.
Responsible organizations understand the potential impacts of their actions and take steps to “do no harm.” Business leaders determining how to respond to the pandemic need to assess the potential impacts on all company stakeholders.
Well-managed organizations plan for foreseeable crises. Companies that engage in meaningful crisis planning likely had a standby pandemic crisis plan they could draw upon as they began to address COVID-19. Effective crisis management plans identify potentially affected stakeholders and catalogue relevant corporate policies for high priority scenarios. A global manufacturer’s pandemic planning, for example, would have considered the business impact of supply chain interruptions, triggers to suspend executive travel, and criteria for allowing employees to work remotely.
When evaluating next steps, companies should seek to “do no harm” by preventing or mitigating harmful impacts.
Companies without a pandemic crisis plan in place can still identify potential impacts to guide their response. Enterprise-wide impact mapping and assessment can help an organization prioritize next steps. By applying a human rights impact lens to its operations and stakeholders,  a hospital system, for example, might prioritize securing adequate personal protective equipment to ensure the health and safety of its healthcare workers; expanding diagnostic testing among vulnerable communities to ensure nondiscrimination in patient access to healthcare, and communicating information about the virus and medical capacity to ensure public access to reliable and timely information.
When evaluating next steps, companies should seek to “do no harm” by preventing or mitigating harmful impacts. Apparel companies that have cancelled supplier contracts for goods during the pandemic face criticism for triggering layoffs of the factory workers worldwide that make their products, often among the groups most vulnerable to COVID-19. A quick stakeholder impact assessment would have flagged the risk of harming supply chain workers. Responsible international brands have sought to protect workers by honoring their supplier contracts during the pandemic.
Similarly, companies that provide paid sick leave are protecting the health of employees, customers and the general public alike. When the California-based retailer Patagonia voluntarily closed its stores nationwide while continuing to pay its employees, its CEO and President, Rose Marcario stated, “It’s everyone’s responsibility to help stop the spread of this virus.”
“It’s everyone’s responsibility to help stop the spread of this virus.”
− Rose Marcario, CEO and President, Patagonia Inc.
Anticipate changing stakeholder expectations.
Meeting stakeholder expectations demonstrates corporate responsibility and earns the trust of those who matter most to your business. All stakeholders expect a responsible organization to care about the multiple dimensions of the COVID-19 crisis and to take appropriate action.
What stakeholders expect a responsible company to do will change. The current pandemic is a dynamic situation that calls for decision-makers to adapt policies to new information. Responsible companies meet stakeholders where they are and adjust accordingly.
Customers, for example, expect essential businesses that remain open (or that reopen) to follow public health guidelines, to protect their employees, and to protect vulnerable community members. Obeying the law is the just the starting point.
On my first trip to the grocery store after a statewide “stay-at-home” order had been issued, the store had placed limits on the number of scarce items that customers could buy, like cleaning products and milk. Employees were working hard to keep shelves stocked. Two weeks later, consistent with evolving public health guidance, the store was limiting the number of customers allowed inside at once, plexiglass shields had been placed between checkout workers and customer payment stations, and all store employees wore gloves and masks. The grocery chain had also adopted an industry-wide practice reserving its opening hour for elderly customers. On my most recent shopping trip, the store had instituted “one-way” aisles to ensure physical distancing and all customers were required to wear face coverings.
Some of these measures were mandated; some were voluntary. All track what the store’s customers, employees, and community would expect a responsible grocery store to do under the circumstances based on available information.
Conversely, companies that act contrary to stakeholder expectations for responsible conduct, even if the actions are legal and contribute to the bottom line, risk losing the trust of customers, investors, and regulators. Large public corporations that secured millions of dollars of loans under the Paycheck Protection Program intended for small businesses, for example, have endured substantial public criticism prompting some companies to return the funds. The angry reaction should not have been a surprise for corporate leaders paying attention to stakeholder expectations.
Philanthropy is not a substitute for responsibility.
Stakeholders expect responsible companies with the resources to do so, to give money and to tap their expertise during a crisis. Many businesses, large and small, have responded to the pandemic by providing financial or in-kind support to healthcare workers, to small businesses, and to international and community organizations addressing the impacts of COVID-19 on vulnerable populations.
Google has pledged more than $800 million to support small businesses, health organizations and governments, and health workers on the frontline of the global pandemic. The company’s contribution includes $250 million in advertising credits to help the World Health Organization and more than 100 government agencies disseminate information on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Citigroup is donating a total of $15 million to the United Nations Foundation and World Health Organization’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, to No Kid Hungry to support emergency food-distribution programs in the United States, and to international efforts in countries that are severely affected by the pandemic. The British and Dutch consumer goods multinational Unilever is contributing €100 million through donations of soap, sanitizer, bleach and food, including adapting its manufacturing lines to produce sanitizer for use in hospitals.
All of these efforts are welcome.
Philanthropy, however, does not excuse a company from acting responsibly elsewhere in its operations.
Amazon faces intense criticism for failing to adequately protect its employees from the outset of the pandemic; resisting paid sick time, hazard pay, and health benefits for part-time employees; and retaliating against a warehouse worker who protested working conditions. Since then, Amazon has enhanced its health and safety practices, hired 175,000 additional employees, and donated thousands of laptops to Seattle public school students, among other efforts. CEO and Founder Jeff Bezos announced a $100 million gift to Feeding America. The company’s philanthropic responses alone, however, are proving insufficient to meet stakeholder expectations for responsible conduct. Employees continue to protest Amazon’s working conditions and policies, and regulators have launched investigations into the company’s labor practices.
McDonald’s Corporation has donated over $3 million in food to support local communities during the COVID-19 pandemic; yet, more than half a million McDonald’s workers without access to paid sick leave are serving food nationwide.
Leading companies act and give responsibly.
Business leaders are called to act when government fails to do so.
The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a crisis of government capacity and leadership. Corporate responsibility today means filling these governance gaps.
Business leaders should be prepared to address the governmental pandemic response by speaking out against harmful policies and advocating for responsible solutions.
Responsible companies in the United States are meeting public needs that the federal government has failed to address. Companies in many different sectors are stepping in to manufacture, purchase, and distribute personal protective equipment; to accelerate production of diagnostic tests and medical equipment like ventilators; and to disseminate accurate data on the virus and its spread. Microsoft voluntarily told its employees to work from home in support of local health authorities’ efforts to communicate the urgency of the looming pandemic in Seattle. Apple and Google are partnering to develop contact tracing technology to help governments and health agencies reduce the spread of the virus.
Stakeholders increasingly expect corporate leaders to speak out on public policy issues,  such as gun violence and immigration policy,  when government fails to act or causes harm. COVID-19 is accelerating this trend. In his annual letter to CEOs, Larry Fink, the chairman and CEO of BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, noted last year that “stakeholders are pushing companies to wade into sensitive social and political issues — especially as they see governments failing to do so effectively.” Fink called on CEOs to demonstrate leadership and corporate commitment to “to the countries, regions, and communities where they operate, particularly on issues central to the world’s future prosperity.” No issue meets these criteria right now more than the multi-dimensional COVID-19 crisis.
CEOs that understand and anticipate the potential impacts on of all of their company’s stakeholders are not rushing to reopen.
Business leaders should be prepared to address the governmental pandemic response by speaking out against harmful policies and advocating for responsible solutions. Consumer product brands have had to correct inaccurate information about disinfectants. Many businesses in the United States must now decide whether to reopen against data-driven public health guidance. CEOs that understand and anticipate the potential impacts on of all of their company’s stakeholders are not rushing to reopen.
Unprecedented in its scope, the COVID-19 pandemic presents a unique opportunity for companies and their leaders to live their values by acting responsibly.
Logos Senior Advisor Anthony Ewing counsels executives on corporate responsibility and works with clients to establish and strengthen crisis management programs. He teaches a graduate seminar on corporate responsibility at Columbia Law School.
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Global Crisis Advisor and President of Logos Consulting Group, Helio Fred Garcia, on Meat Processing Crisis:
NEW YORK (May 7, 2020) – “The meat processing crisis is an example of leaders knowingly putting their people at risk,” said Helio Fred Garcia, Global Crisis Advisor and President of Logos Consulting Group. “This is a combined failure of public policy and business leadership. The nation and businesses need to do better.”
For media personnel interested in interviewing or featuring Helio Fred Garcia as a crisis expert commentator, please reach out to Maida K. Zheng, email@example.com or at 315-368-4287.
Helio Fred Garcia, known as the Global Crisis Advisor, has helped leaders build trust, inspire loyalty, and lead effectively for more than 40 years. He is a coach, counselor, teacher, writer, and speaker whose clients have included more than 400 CEOs of some of the largest and best-known companies and organizations in the world, in dozens of countries on six continents.
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https://i2.wp.com/www.logosconsulting.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Global-Crisis-Advisor-and-President-of-Logos-Consulting-Group-Helio-Fred-Garcia-on-Meat-Processing-Crisis-covid19-maidazeng.jpg?fit=1540%2C800&ssl=18001540Yinnan Shenhttps://www.logosconsulting.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/HQ-Lambda-Consulting-Lockup-1030x562.pngYinnan Shen2020-05-07 17:29:372021-09-17 10:22:16PRESS RELEASE: Global Crisis Advisor and President of Logos Consulting Group, Helio Fred Garcia, on Meat Processing Crisis
“When you do the common things in life in an uncommon way, you will command the attention of the world.”
~ George Washington Carver
So: You’re wearing a mask and keeping a socially responsible distance. You’re staying safe but taking long daily walks in the nearly empty streets of New York City to keep yourself healthy and sane. You peer into the dark, empty storefronts as you stroll along. You arrive at the place you always found familiar and comforting; it now looks abandoned and forbidding. There is no human to greet you, only a few words on a single page attached to the front door. Almost every door on every street has a similar sign.
As the days of shutdown have dragged on, I’ve become intrigued by these signs, snapping pictures of at least 100 of them. I’ve read the words again and again. They are breathtaking in their sameness, leading me to the question: How much difference can a few words on a simple sign possibly make?
Businesses reopening in the aftermath of the current crisis may soon find out.
Sometimes the message on the door is just one word – “Closed.” Not terribly helpful, is it? That feels more like the end of a relationship than a reassurance that you and your spot will be reunited in the future.
While heavily trafficked commercial chains may have a following who look for convenience alone, a cozy neighborhood haunt cannot exist without building an emotional bond – appreciation, affection, even love – with its customers. When that business closes indefinitely, or its hours are suddenly and severely curtailed, anxious customers need to see words of gratitude, emotion, and empathy: “We thank you.” “We appreciate you.” “We miss you.” “We understand what you are going through because we are going through it, too.”
Empathy should start right there at the front door.
Surprisingly, even in these difficult times, when those words of connectivity matter most, when customers expect to find love letters from deeply grateful owners, they find crisis boilerplate instead, often written in haste, dashed off as a formality and perhaps copied from a neighboring establishment. Even worse, sometimes, the desired words do not appear at all.
That strategically placed sheet of paper – occasionally drafted with the assistance of a lawyer or a communications professional – may be instructive but it’s not terribly personal. Or authentic. Or meaningful.
That kind of corporate jargon often makes me stop reading – I imagine you know the phrases: “our top priority,” “we are closely monitoring,” “we are committed to …” But owners use them because they know they need to communicate quickly with customers coming to the door, and they want the message to sound official. Professional communicators reading this will understand that the sign on the door is a kind of stand-by statement to let the entire world, including those critical customers, know what is going on in that moment and what they can expect while the crisis – and temporary closure – continues.
ACKNOWLEDGMENT – a statement of awareness that something has happened.
EMPATHY – an expression of empathy or sympathy to those who are hurting or inconvenienced – and in COVID-19 times, everyone is hurting and inconvenienced.
VALUES – a declaration of the business’ values – including how much that business values those customers.
APPROACH – a summary of the actions the business is taking in the wake of the crisis.
COMMITMENT – a statement that sets future expectations, i.e., “We will keep you up-to-date as we hear any important news and will let you know when we can reopen. We will be here for you online even while we are closed.”
In all fairness, I’m sure these independent owners also mean to communicate how much they love and miss their customers. But their words – crafted out of necessity and in great haste from a template – don’t quite resonate. They don’t quite say: We are closed, but we miss you and are still there for you.
Contrast those signs with recent updates that a certain coffee company has posted on Instagram – the digital front door for many contemporary consumers. Note the likes and comments.
So, for owners of shuttered businesses – small or large, mighty or nimble – here are two important questions you should ask yourself:
1. How can you communicate your message in conversational human language, rather than boilerplate jargon? You’re dealing with ordinary humans. Why not sound like one?
2. How can you include a message of gratitude at the very top of the page? Owners should express their sincere thanks to the customer who has arrived at the door in the first sentence or two. What would happen if the language of the sign started there? Only good things, I promise you.
Here are some signs that hit the mark beautifully. Which ones do you like best?
One last thought: many of the signs that I see on the doors have been left there unchanged for weeks.
Dear shop owners— It’s not too late to change that sign!
https://i2.wp.com/www.logosconsulting.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Dispatches-in-the-Time-of-COVID-19-Leave-Your-Empathy-at-the-Door-covid19-barbaragreen.png?fit=950%2C868&ssl=1868950Barbara Greenehttps://www.logosconsulting.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/HQ-Lambda-Consulting-Lockup-1030x562.pngBarbara Greene2020-05-01 12:23:162021-09-03 20:23:36Dispatches in the Time of COVID-19: Leave Your Empathy at the Door