Remaining Relevant Amidst a Global Health Crisis

A window into how healthcare organizations can connect with key stakeholders at a time of distraction, confusion

For a copy of the W2O COVID-19 Relevance Analysis, click here

The last month has been nothing short of surreal.

A little more than four weeks ago, the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) was something we witnessed through the lens of our televisions and the internet as citizens across Asia and Europe were struggling to treat patients and manage the spread of a previously unknown virus. Fast forward to today and, in the United States, our entire lives have been upended. Restaurants, bars, stores and theaters are closed, social distancing has become a part of our everyday lexicon, grocery store shelves are nearly empty, the stock market is plummeting, and sports have been cancelled at every level.

We are now restricted to our homes until the rate of the spread of the virus is contained.

While the world struggles with how to deal with this global pandemic, organizations find themselves in a tenuous position. Employees are now working from home, which presents challenges to productivity, effectiveness and confidence as they try to juggle their personal lives with professional responsibilities. Customers expect brands to do more in this environment as the government struggles to provide the services and support necessary to maintain some semblance of normalcy. Given the uncertainty around how far and wide the virus will spread, investors across the United States are looking to turn their investments into cash. Supply chains are being disrupted with fewer employees working in warehouses and normal shipping methods are being disrupted. Customers, concerned about the economy and their livelihoods, are holding onto whatever cash they have.

At the intersection of this new reality, marketers and communicators are struggling to protect the reputation of the companies they work for. What is the policy for a virtual workforce? How will we staff critical functions to better support patients, customers, suppliers, etc. How will we support organizations involved in producing drugs to treat COVID-19?  What will we do for employees with vulnerable family members? What should we be saying to the marketplace that is meaningful?

And so on.

In effect, how can my organization remain relevant in the midst of such a crisis? Being relevant was already challenging with digital channels exploding exponentially over the last 10+ years, the number of audiences they were serving growing at the same rate of speed, greater demand to do more with less investment, and growing competition from all sectors of the market. Even with all that, the primary job of protecting reputation has never been more important – or more challenging. How do you do that, though, while investor sentiment drops, your customers are not nearly as engaged as they were even two months ago, and your employees are dealing with more than they have ever dealt with before?

It is our perspective that, in a social/digital world, companies that are not connecting or engaging with key stakeholders have lost relevance with the people who could shape the brand and move the business. In effect, if you are not relevant, you don’t exist.

The companies that maintain a high level of relevance with their key stakeholders are constantly mindful of closing the gap between what they want to say and what their stakeholders want to hear. Never has that been more critical than during this pandemic.

With that lens in place, we refocused our W2O Relevance Framework, the analytically driven framework that is designed to assess an organization’s and brand’s stakeholder relevance, to address the following:

  • Do we understand our stakeholders in terms of concerns, interests and priorities?
  • Do our employees believe in our premise?
  • Does our positioning resonate with all of our key stakeholders? How?
  • Is the potential value of our business meaningful to media, employees and investors?
  • How relevant are we compared to direct competitors, a few aspirational comparators, and hundreds of other companies?
  • Are people searching for information about our business?
  • Are people engaging with our content online?
  • How are employees rating us and what are they saying and expecting?
  • Do people support our CEO?
  • How are financial analysts rating us and what are they saying and expecting?
  • Are policymakers talking about us and what are they saying and expecting?
  • Are influencers, buyer segments and the healthcare ecosystem, talking about us and what are they saying and expecting?
  • Are we ahead of the curve on new thinking?

With the novel coronavirus impacting everyone and everything, now is a critical time for corporations to be actively addressing the above questions with swift and decisive action in order to maintain and increase relevance.

COVID-19 Relevance Analysis Insights

The W2O COVID-19 Relevance Analysis provides organizations with a roadmap to assess the current situation with an eye toward growing tighter connections with the people who shape their businesses every day. What does that roadmap look like? What are the elements that have made companies relevant to their stakeholders as they deal with this pandemic?

In looking at healthcare organizations, we learned:

  • Relevance Now is About Sensitivity, Empathy and Action. The most relevant companies demonstrate these characteristics in both their communications and decision-making.
  • Relevance Strengthens Organizational Confidence. Employees working in a virtual environment tend to question value with the loss of community and networking. Being relevant with stakeholders improves overall confidence as an enterprise.
  • Collaboration is Emerging as a Key Relevance Driver. Companies exhibiting internal collaboration, working with regulators and policy makers, and partnering with philanthropic organizations are viewed more favorably in this environment.
  • Timing and Information Makes All the Difference. What companies say and provide publicly is about when and how they do it.
  • Stakeholders Must “Discover” Policy, Approach to Trust. “Selling” an organization’s narrative will be dismissed as rhetoric or worse.
  • Employee “Value” Must be Reinforced in a Virtual Workplace. As cited earlier, employees are working remotely and may feel like they’re in a bubble. Keeping them informed, interested and connected is critical to reinforcing their value and confidence.

Over the coming weeks, we will be refreshing and sharing our data and insights.

We certainly are living in an incredible time where the world seems to be standing still.  Moving forward as individuals and organizations is going to take determination, perseverance, information and connection.

Staying relevant amid such a turbulent time is not just important, it’s critical, especially once things do return to normalcy and they will.

In the meantime, stay safe and healthy!

Contributions to this content were made by Gary Grates, Chuck Hemann, Stephen Yoon, Marianne Gollub and Daniel Steffen of W2O.

W2O’s additional COVID-19 coverage

Learn more about W2O via our About or Healthcare pages

Alan Chumley
Alan Chumley

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