The 5 Stages Of Coping With COVID

May 11, 2020

You’ll be pleased to hear that I skipped Stage 4. There is still every chance I will have learnt Renegade by the end of the weekend, but here I appear to be: Stage 5.

Predicting the future.

Well, not quite. But, after lots of looking sideways, helping clients and our own agency to shift and realign strategies, I am finally looking forward.

Wondering what’s next.

What will change? How much, how quickly? How much of an impact will Covid-19 have on our day-to-day lives: our homes, our work, the way we feel about politics, life, our clients, our colleagues, our employers, ourselves.

If you are in the Mark Ritson camp you’ll believe that very little will be different in a post-Covid world. The aftermath of the financial collapse of 2008 taught us that life goes on. Planes still fly, birds still sing, brands still advertise, and bankers still make a shit-ton of money.

That’s not to say everything is the same. Banks can’t communicate in the same way they did before the collapse, neither can bankers. They’re our friends now, on our side, providing us with brightly-lit co-working spaces and coffee shops and emails about entrepreneurship. Then again, maybe these changes were, arguably, destined to happen anyway.

So, things might ‘stay the same’ but just be more.

More fast. More visible.

Like, more people working from home, more video conferencing, more virtual pub quizzes, more home delivery, more pivot to ecomm. More nuanced or more fundamental?

I think, before we even begin to take into account operational or logistical predictions like: where people will be when they login to the company intranet, we need to consider how people may feel.

Personally, I don’t believe that any easing of restrictions or ‘re-opening’ of the country will be met with confetti cannons and street parades. People have been, and continue to be, traumatised by what they are seeing and experiencing. And we have a long way to go yet.

I am already eyeing up suspiciously TV shows where people stand close together in crowded bars. Sound the alarm! Social distance!

So, I expect people may return to ‘normal’ but with a different take on what that is. Which means brands need to plan for a tidal wave of customer emotion that they may never had to consider in the past.

Fear, anger, grief, anxiety, relief, exhilaration, impatience, suspicion.

When I think about supporting my clients through this period, I have to think mainly about their customers. How can we respond to their uncertainty, how can we be considerate, useful, caring and compassionate in our communication.

Listen more and listen better.

Habits are hard to break, but most of my daily habits have all but disappeared. Some I mourn, some I wave gleefully goodbye. The armpit-shrouded commute, the £20 a week (at least) wasted on Pret breakfasts. I do yoga now, I read more. I actually water my plants.

So things have changed, then.

My only advice for predicting the future is to not pretend the past didn’t happen. Just because the changes aren’t seismic, it doesn’t make them insignificant. I know that, through all of this, I will be staying alert and listening to consumers. They will show us what they want to see from brands.

Things will change, they already have.

The brands that listen the hardest will respond the best. And be there to help shape the future, not just predict it.

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