How to Handle Crisis Response as a Small Business


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“Please don’t be mad at meeeee!” she said, holding yet another rat in her small, tanned hands.

It was my senior year of college, and my soft-hearted roommate had had yet another run-in at the pet store.

Specifically: another trip to Petco for rat food had caused her to discover yet another under-loved rat she simply had to bring home.

(At one point, SIX RATS would be living in our living room.)

((I WISH I WAS KIDDING.))

Life as a Recovering Pushover

And I, who had not even been asked about the first two she brought home…

I, who nervously laughed after the second two rats arrived, and said “OK, but four is plenty. Too many, even.”…

I, who was watching a corner of my living turn into an ever-evolving Rat Tower of Babel, as my crafty roommate finagled old bird cages and fish tanks into a bigger and bigger enclosure.

… Sighed, and surrendered to the inevitable.

Because honestly, I was way more of a pushover back then, and what else was I supposed to do? All the rats were already here.

“OK.” I said. “But please let this be the last one.”

(Narrator: It wasn’t.)

I’m Fine. Really. (Not Actually Tho.)

I found myself inhabiting this same fatigued space of “OK, fiiiine,” a lot during those months of 2020, as corporation after corporation told me and the rest of the world, coming to terms first with Covid, and then with civil unrest following the killing of George Floyd:

“We care.”

“You matter.”

“We’re listening.”

And, in more recent months, “Please don’t be mad at usssssss.

In PR, this is known as “crisis response”.

In reality, it’s… usually pretty awkward.

And what was so interesting about the crisis response commercials, posts, and emails flooding in from every direction was that the response to them was almost universal:

They didn’t really make any of us feel safer, or cared for.

Who is the Real Audience?

Much like the 6 rats in my college apartment living room — they were in our spaces, but they weren’t for us.

Because most crisis response — at the corporate level anyway — just isn’t really for the Average Jill consumer.

It’s for the board, the investors, and the key stakeholders.

“See?” they can say, once they’ve put together yet another commercial featuring slow piano music and the words ‘people’ three hundred times. “We’ve done something,”

“We’ve acknowledged the moment.”

“We’ve apologized.”

“We’re good now.”

Eye roll.

But in the small business/personal brand world, crisis response is perhaps even more necessary… and even more tricky to nail properly.

Vulnerability Without a Safety Net

Like the corporations around us, we see the world is changing. We know we have to say something.

But… what?

And we notice particularly poignantly in that moment: our accessibility is both our strength and our vulnerability.

Our communities often have direct access to us, our values are on display more frequently in our content, and our “We have to say something,” anxieties are further weighed down by the fear that if we say the wrong thing, we’re often not protected by a skyscraper-sized cash cushion.

So we can’t do it like the big dogs, and simply copy-paste a script into a few stock video clips to appease our higher ups and call it a day.

(Well, technically we could. But we shouldn’t.)

And an audience sick of major companies trying to appease them back into opening their wallets can, understandably, be on a hair trigger.

The stakes feel higher because… they are.

Crisis Response for the Small Brand — A Primer

So — what’s a small business to do in the thick of a crisis, anyway?

How do we learn our lessons from both the applause and backlash we’re seeing across the industry, so the next moment the world seems to be spinning off its axis, we know what steps to take?

How can we think about our response more deeply, so we can consciously create more than a half-hearted “We care! “, or a mumbled “Please don’t be mad at meeeee!

Margo and I dig into all this, a healthy roasting of corporate crisis response, AND MORE on today’s episode of HAMYAW.

Come for us cracking up on a screen share of that one “Every Covid Commercial is the Same” YouTube video, and stay for discussions on:

  • How to avoid that stale “We care. Really! We swear! We do! Please don’t stop buying!” feeling in your messaging
  • How de-centering will 10x the effectiveness of your messaging
  • The difference between inappropriate disclosure and vulnerability (and posturing)
  • Why so much corporate messaging is indistinguishable
  • Why the way we train people to communicate “professionally” is completely ineffective
  • The thin line between what you share publicly and what you keep private

And while you’re over there, let us know in the comments:

Was there a company you felt handles crisis response REALLY well?

What about someone who handled it not so great… but bounced back?

Come spill your guts – and we’ll see you over there.

And yes – we promise we won’t be mad. ;)

Write on,

H

P.S.

I’m sure this goes without saying, but I’m gonna say it anyway:

While that “we won’t be mad” was a great closer for this email, if you DO want to talk about an organization doing crisis response wrong, please still be respectful in the comments. <3

Episode Transcript

Hi, welcome to HAMYAW, where Margo sits on the floor and

Hillary’s in her bedroom. Motherfucker, hang on, let me reorganize these pillows. (laughing)  

Oh, nice ass shot. 

(upbeat music)  

Welcome back, marketing nerds of the world. It’s time for another episode of HAMYAW, coming to you live from my bedroom and Margo’s new living room.  

Floor.  

Today, oh floor, yes, her living room floor. (laughing)  

To talk about crisis response. The reason why we wanted to dig in this episode and have this discussion today is because we’ve been exposed to so much crisis response messaging lately. And the frustration is always the same.

All these big corporations are saying exactly the same thing. They’re hitting the same notes. Everybody is trying to be the first in line to make sure their post is out there so they know, “We’re listening. We’re here for you. We are thinking to the future.”

And I think it’s just, it feels like a lot of nonsense because a lot of time it is a little, a lot of nonsense. So we wanted to spend a little bit of time today, first of all, showing you guys a great example of, you know, the pattern and template of crisis response.

And also talk a little bit about what to do instead, but before we get into today’s screen-share, that’s right, it’s a screen-share episode, Margo, talk to me a little bit about your thoughts on crisis response.  

It’s the bane of my existence.

(laughing)

I know I say that about everything, so maybe I need to get more specific, but what bothers me is it’s kind of the canary of the coal mine of what is wrong with messaging with so many of these corporate brands and their inability to get out of their own ways.

Because there’s a reason why they all sound the same. They’re lacking in empathy, they’re lacking in compassion. And I like to call it “show, don’t tell.” So whenever I hear a brand, like, my Spidey sense goes off when people are like, “We care. You matter to us.”

And I’m like, “Well, now that you’re telling me, I’m wondering if you don’t.” It’s like a man who insists he’s not cheating on you. It’s like, “Honey, I just asked what you wanted for dinner.” I’m like, “Why are you bringing this up?”

(laughing)  

Yeah, we’re being gaslit by the corporations of America. So crisis response, we’ve seen a lot of it. We’ve experienced a lot of it, but first, just to sort of bring everything into context for the rest of the conversation, let’s take a look at the screen-share. 

(somber piano music)

Sad piano music.

(laughing)

Rise.

(man vocalizing)

(laughing) 

That’s, this is dizzying.  

Lincoln’s my favorite. Just the black and white, y’all. Dude, stock music, getting a workout over COVID.  

[Lexus Narrator] When we first opened our doors

[Nationwide Narrator] Since 1926

Going to the history.  

[Little Caesars Narrator] For 60 years

[U-Haul Narrator] For 75 years

[Nissan Narrator] For over 80 years

[Farmer’s Insurance Narrator] In 90 years

[AT&T Narrator] Over 100 years

[Nationwide Narrator] Nationwide has been on your side.  

[Doordash Narrator] Restaurants  

Has it? 

[Doordash Narrator] have been there for you.  

[Nissan Narrator] Nissan has been with you through thick and thin

[Lexus Narrator] We’ll do what we’ve always done

You’re a car company, come on.  

People

People

People

People

Profit!  

Family

Family

Family

Family

Family

Family

Families

Families

Even now

Especially now

Especially

Right now

Now more than ever

Now more than ever!  

Today more than ever

Today

Should have been before, y’all. Should have been before.  

Okay. Anyway, you guys get the picture. First of all, let’s talk about why this templatized response even exists. Like, why are all of these brands using this corny PR?  

Yes.  

Talking about how long they’ve been around, just to remind you just how, I don’t know, legit they are or what the longevity is.  

Well, that’s not, these aren’t for us. This ad is not for consumers. It’s for shareholders, it’s for the board. It’s simply to be able to turn around to your higher ups and say, “I, see, I did something.”  

Yeah.  

“Look, I did the thing and we’re good. We responded.”  

“We’re woke now.” Well, I think it was the same thing. We were seeing a lot of that with George Floyd, with, you know, everything that’s been going on with the unrest and all that, as well, is you had brands all kind of saying the same thing. Like, we’re…

“We care!”  

“We hear you.”  

“We’re not racist!”  

“We’re striving,” yeah

“We were racist, but not anymore!”  

“We were yesterday, but today is a new day.”  

“I’ve learned so much!”  

“In the past 24 hours, amazing. We’re so woke.”

Anyway, but I think again, like, the templated response, this is the “we want to check off the box, we want to say we’ve done something.”

But I think this rubs, especially a lot of online business owners, the wrong way, especially professional communicators like us because it shows that people have not taken the time.

Because the interesting thing about crisis response is that, you know, you want to make people feel safe. You want to make people feel secure, like things aren’t going to be radically changing on the business side of things. You want them, I don’t know, to feel supported because then they’ll keep their wallets open. 

But when it comes to crisis response, I think, for small businesses, it is so much more personal and it is so much more important to kind of think through the next steps and how you can come at it. And a really interesting point was put to me…

Not me individually, but I was on this workshop, an anti-racist workshop a couple of weeks ago. The woman leading it, Trudy LeBron, who’s a DEI educator and all around awesome woman, was talking about bringing your anti-racism work and the way you respond to the current situation in line with your values. And that sounds really obvious, but at the same time, I don’t think we really think that through as business owners. 

So for me, my values are joy, transparency, and the ability to always find the motivation, a reason to encourage people, basically. That’s sort of changed my thinking about it. Aside from crossing off a box, aside from saying, like, “Hello, I would just like to let everyone know that I am not racist.”

It’s like, what does that actually mean? What does that actually look like? How do we respond as brands in moments of crisis in ways that align with who we are that feels familiar, that’s not going to feel totally contrived, and like it’s cut and pasted from a million other Instagram accounts?

And how can we do something, also, that reflects honestly the work that we’re doing or going to do? And I think that’s a difficult dance to walk. So when it comes to this standard of crisis response for small business and personal brands, what are your thoughts, Margo?  

I love what you said about values. I think the problem with values at a corporate level is that it’s a PowerPoint deck. So, people haven’t actually internalized them.

Like, I used to run into this problem when I would create brand voice guidelines, and the beautiful packet that I would deliver, that told you about tone and syntax and give you examples of like, “We use these kinds of sentences and not these kinds of sentences.”

And then you’d hand it over and it would sit on someone’s desk and they wouldn’t know how to apply the information I just gave them to the actual copy. And there’d be a disconnect between what the copywriter, or messaging, or even brand team’s job was versus what my job was.

My job was to deliver something to the brand team. The brand team’s job was to please their boss. It wasn’t actually to produce collateral that influenced people on the other end of the exchange. 

And so I think what you’re saying about small businesses being more personal is true, because there’s less space between the company and the end user.

But I think it’s true of corporations too. And why they miss the mark so hard.

It’s not difficult to be personal in your copy, if you are able to tell the truth, if you are able to actually exude your values.

There’s a wonderful book called Small Giants. I forget the author of it right now, Bo something. Burlingham?

Anyway, he was the former Editor-in-chief of Ink, and it is a beautiful case study of these giant small businesses who have managed to live their values. And they don’t seem to have trouble with it, but it’s like a lot of work. It’s a lot of work to actually stand for what you believe, but it comes out in your messaging. 

And so these are things you can’t actually train. It’s not something that I can hand you in a brand document.

It comes from the culture. It comes from the culture of the founders, it comes from the culture of the employees. It comes from the culture of the industry that you’re in.

So I think that when we’re talking about how you communicate, you know, one of the reasons you and I operate outside of the traditional agency world and outside of those confines that we used to be, or I used to be in, you never had to actually enter the realm of disgusting.

I mean, I kind of did. I will let you know that I was a really terrible public relations intern for most of my late teens and early twenties, so. But, you’re absolutely right. Like, I’m a digital business native. There hasn’t been…

Totally, but that’s why you’re good. I mean, truly, you guys, like, I felt like I was going backwards the times that I was working on campaigns for these bigger corporations who are more, let me think how to say this politically. No, I won’t.  

Don’t do it.  

It’s more important to sound professional than it is to be clear and to be effective. So it’s not actually about.  

To be honest, too. 

Exactly. It’s more about how do we communicate transparency without being transparent. It’s never stated that directly.

I’ve had clients who’ve responded to crises so beautifully, and it comes from the agility of the senior team and their willingness to lean into the discomfort of telling the truth. I can’t believe I’m going to say this on the record. I actually think United did a wonderful job of this.  

Ooh did they?  

Rule one, they got fucked for the first time. So they couldn’t actually lie anymore.  

Yeah, yeah. No one’s flying. You can see the seats, like you can tell that everything is horrible.  

Very, it’s over. Yeah, exactly.  

You know, you’ve got a couple of like, “We’re doing the most. Here’s what we’re doing to keep you safe.” But then at some point we started getting sounder emails. I don’t know if y’all are on their list, but we started getting sounder emails.

It was like, “This is hard!” And like, “Here’s what we’re doing. People are still traveling. We understand that you’re still traveling. Here’s what we’re trying to do.” Tone is a big part of it.

But I mean, I say it’s marketing juju, but, like, being sincere and honest comes out in the tone, like, it gets communicated through what you say. So if you come at the words and the messaging from a place of, “I want to actually help the people on the other end of this. This isn’t about me.”

And that’s where I actually, I’m glad you brought up anti-racist work because I think it’s some of the best communication training you can get…

Yeah.  

…in a lot of ways. They call it “de-centering,” which, I love this phrase. I want everyone to know what it is because I see the same problem in all copy, is when you start making it about you, you start making it about what I need, what my company cares about, what my experience was.

And like, that’s how we generally relate in conversation. It’s also very tedious to have conversations with people who do this, like in real life, but online, we all seem to be doing it all the time.  

Yep.  

You do not do that. (laughing) You know, it’s like the person, when you tell them about your breakup and they’re like, “Well, in my breakup we did this.” And you’re just like, “Great, thanks.”

Or like, you, you go to someone you’re like, “I’m having this problem with my kid.” And they’re like, “Well, my kid.” And you’re just like, “Ah!”  

“Stop!” That’s, like, something that I think a lot of companies were doing, they just ran and jumped. They were like, “We’re doing this, we’re doing this!” And you’re just like, “Breathe, take a breather.”  

I think this is also the question of, I’m showing my hand here, cause I’m reading Brené Brown’s Dare to Lead right now, but this is actually also a leadership question, because…

Yes!  

…these huge brands coming out with these commercials being like, “We, we’ve got this,” like, it keeps them in the role of leader in terms of perception. Cause it’s like the commercial’s already out.

They’ve already responded. We’re going, going, going.

But in reality, I think when it’s a moment of actual crisis for the planet, that’s fine. But when it is a moment where leadership is actually necessary, where people need somebody to either tell them what to do or tell them everything’s gonna be okay, I understand the template,.

But also it’s no wonder that there were these deep frustration with the level of insincerity, because if you are copy-pasting your response from some other leaders, cause you’re like, “That sounds good, I’ll say that.”

It’s insincere, and it’s also not necessarily what should be doing as a brand because it doesn’t represent who you are. It doesn’t cement your values. If you’re so obsessed, basically, with being the first one with the response, so you can say, like, “I got it out, you’re welcome world.” That’s not really leadership. 

And the leadership people are looking to right now, I think there’s so much more of a craving for authenticity because so many people were grappling and, like, shoving each other on the way to prove that they were prepared.

To prove that they were already working on it. To prove they’re not racist in additional cases here.

And I think that that’s a really tricky thing, especially for small business owners to think about because it’s a moment to demonstrate leadership. And what does that actually look like?

Does that look like you’re like at the top of the hill, being like, “Stay calm peasants, I got this,” or is it, you know, “Hey, so this is going on. Here’s what we’re doing. We’re in this with you guys. We’re figuring it out day by day as we go.”

But also where is the point that the cutoff is on the other end of the spectrum? Where is that other point of inappropriate disclosure? And that’s, I think, the other side.

That’s the other side.  

There were some brands that were like, “I’ve been crying, my head is hurting, I’m so depressed.” And it’s like, “Okay, like, I mean, same,” but this doesn’t really inspire.  

It’s not the right place for this.  

It’s really, this is not the right place for this. Yeah, so there’s a sort of, that spectrum of extremes that I think is interesting as you look at this.  

Yes, I’m really glad you brought up Dare to Lead, too, because I think fear is the undercurrent of all of this.  

Yeah. And I think you’re so right.

Inappropriate disclosure on one end, posturing and performance on the other end. And both of them are kind of versions of performance and they’re like buttoned up on, the other end, is what we’ll call it.

But you’re totally right, because fear, fear runs through both.

Because on the one hand we have all felt it, when we try and message in a way that feels genuine and then go, “Ooh, you’re not allowed to say that like that.”

And knowing the line between, “I’m not allowed, but it’s the right thing to do,” and “I’m not allowed because it’s freaking inappropriate, and you shouldn’t be talking about this here,” right?

And like sometimes you learn by making a mistake and other times you learn by avoiding doing the bad thing. Like, there are many ways in which we grow from these things. 

But back to fear, I think, in the corporate context, and in the small business context, we have the same kind of fear, but they’re applied in different ways.

So in the corporate context, you have this need to fit in and not lose your top of the hierarchy status of, “I am the leader in this,” whatever that means.

And then in the small business space, you’re growing. You want to instill confidence in the people who follow you, and you also want to show that you are keeping up and doing all the right things and get your place in the rightful hierarchy.

So both of these things are fear-bred. And I think a lot of people also don’t have experience with communications. 

And so I think it’s, sincerely, how we are trained is wrong. How we are trained to communicate is to copy and paste, to do what other people are doing.

I mean, everyone  think back right now on your college admission essay. If you’re writing a cover letter right now, you know what I’m talking about. It’s the, you know, five paragraph structure of one topic, sentence, three supporting and all a displaying of you and why I’m great.

I used to do this for my thesis. Like, when I was applying to graduate school, and I’d be like, “Here’s why my research interests are so important and relevant to you, and why I want to research this.” Like, what? That’s what they tell you to do! And that’s exactly what’s happening in people’s messaging with crisis response.  

Yeah.  

They’re following the formulas that you were told, “This is how it works,” and you are afraid to question the mold, understandably. Also during a crisis, you’re just afraid.

Anyway.  

Yeah, period, and I think that there’s an interesting contrast because I remember you and I were talking about this when everything started hitting and we ended up doing our live episode for HAMYAW.  

Yeah.  

Because I know very few of you think of us as leaders, but we kind of have to think of ourselves as leaders. ‘Cause we’re here showing up every week. Or no, we’re just jokes. That’s fine. But I think the…

Pretty faces.  

…the discussion, very pretty faces. But the discussion we were having was like, “Okay, we clearly don’t have the answers. Like we are not experts here. What’s the conversation we want to be having?

Because we have to do an episode on this. We can’t just ignore it.” We ended up doing the episode live, first of all. Cause we just wanted to jam with you guys. We’re going to be doing more of those hopefully later in the year, cause we had so much fun.

But the interesting thing about it was we were like, “Well, what do you come to the table with when you were coming to the table with nothing?” I think that’s the question because we were like, “We don’t have any real resources.” Cause again, this is brand new.

We don’t really have advice. We can share with you what we’re doing, and also just sit in the mud with you because I think the first three seconds of the episode, I was like, “How are you doing Margo?” You’re like, “I don’t know, bad?”

(laughing)

I was like, “Same!”

There’s that solidarity there. 

But I think that’s what toes the line from inappropriate disclosure and posturing, because we were like, it wasn’t like, “We don’t know what’s going on. Let’s all sit here and be sad.”

I was saying, you know, “We don’t know what’s going on, but let’s talk to you about what we’re doing. Let’s start a conversation. Let’s sort of open the back door a little bit so you guys can peek in and then you can sort of learn what we’re doing, we can talk about what you’re doing, and we can stay in conversation.”

‘Cause that’s always the priority for HAMYAW, is to, not necessarily give you guys orders, or act like we know everything. That’s literally never been our ethos, but this moment of creating that connection, creating that space to come together, laugh a little and talk about what’s really going on outside of the posturing COVID commercials and you know, the emails with, ‘All of a sudden, a special on X.” So you can get money in your pocket.  

No, but it’s true. Like, I love this link back to leadership.

I wasn’t even thinking about this when we first were talking about this episode, but I think that’s exactly what this is because I know you were joking. We’re not exactly leaders, but I have got on the record to say, and I’ll say this again, like, “If you have an audience, you are a leader.”

It’s that whole thing, everybody’s saying that everyone’s a media company. That is the same kind of thing. So you have a civic responsibility to your audience. 

Now, the question is where are those boundaries, and what does that look like?

This is why we always say entrepreneurship is self care and growth because you do need a posture of openness. And I think that goes back to, you know, that line between inappropriate disclosure and vulnerability, is that vulnerability is courage and leaning into the discomfort of going, “I don’t know,” but not putting your business that you should be talking about with your husband out on the floor.

Like, I don’t need to talk to you at you, not you, the audience about how I’m grappling with something until after I’ve grappled with it. You are not my support network.

I love you guys, but you’re not. And you shouldn’t be.

That’s an inappropriate way to talk to your audience. It’s not my diary. You’re not the person I’m frantically texting in the middle of the night. That’s Sarah and you.  

The group chat. So strong.  

The group chat, yeah.

We got to go back a little bit to Carol Dweck’s work on growth mindset. And I think when you are a leader and you’re coming from a place of courage and vulnerability, you come with an open mind to go, “Hold the phone. I’m not totally sure what the next move is here. Let’s talk about it.”

And that’s as much vulnerability as you need to show sometimes. To even admit, “I don’t know everything,” which is the premise of our show, but also like without going, “I’m freaking out, I’m crying, I’m spending nights, and here’s why you need to support me emotionally because I’m falling apart.”

You don’t have to go to that level to simply say, “Okay, pause, regroup.” And that’s where the better messaging comes back.  

Yeah, and I think

That’s how we get to the good stuff.  

I would say there’s that saying in improv, the “yes and,” I think in business it’s “and so,” because it’s like, “I don’t know what I’m doing right now. And so, here’s what I’m going to do about it.” Yeah, “What are we going to do about it?”

As opposed to, “I don’t know what I’m doing right now. And so, what I’m doing is sitting in my room and crying and eating way too many Oreos and constipating myself with those Oreos,” because that has never happened to me.

(laughing)

That’s a true story, actually. This is from years ago, but I’ll save that for another time. I was really sad. I eat an entire pack of double stuff Oreos

It’s okay, M&Ms are my drug of choice. We all have one.  

Yup, absolutely. And so, they did me wrong that night. They did me wrong.

Anyway.

So if we think of ourselves, you know, in terms of, for the future of crisis response for our businesses and for any CEOs that are watching from these big corporations, who want to learn from us, I think that, for me, the response and the way it was handled, both of us came at it from that “and so.”

It’s like, we can’t posture. We can’t pretend that we know what we’re doing. We can’t pretend that we’ve done everything correctly. We can’t pretend that we’re perfect, you know, anti-racism bastions of progression because nobody is.

So what happens next? And I think what happened next was in line with both of our values, in the case of COVID, for HAMYAW, we did the live episode being like, “Hey, we don’t know what’s going on, but here’s

And we moved everything. But we didn’t announce it. Like, that’s the other thing. We made decisions behind the scenes. We weren’t like, “Hey guys, we’ve paused everything. And now we’re going to shuffle things around so they’re more appropriate.” Like, we just did it.  

Yeah, that’s the other thing, too. I think, you don’t always need to announce that you’re working or that you’re doing stuff, as well. You don’t always need to respond.

I think in the case of, like, a global event, like COVID and George Floyd, it helps to be like, “Hey,” you know, just acknowledging the situation and not trying to just move on with your regularly scheduled programming. But I think what we forget is that we rush to the finish line to make the statement, to have the

And now we’re done.  

To have the quotable, and then be like, “Okay.” Create the Facebook post that gets the most shares, that we forget that it is in our best interest to stop and pause and think, like, “What does this mean and how do I want to carry through the rest of this crisis?”

It’s stopping to think and see the road ahead and think about where you stand, what your audience might need and expect from you, but also what you’re able to deliver. 

Because if it’s not answers, don’t try. I think that’s another key thing because you have to think about, what are your values? Who are you serving? Where are they right now? And how can you be most, in integrity, in the way that you respond?

And giving yourself time to kind of think that over. It doesn’t always have to be something hardcore. It doesn’t have to be a new offer or a beautiful diatribe. It can be a really silly episode of HAWYAW where we just shout about how bad we’re doing and talk about some options that people might have.

It can really be as simple as that, but I think it requires, in some ways, a removal of ego in order to not prioritize saying the first thing, but to prioritize saying the right thing for you.  

Yeah, or for the moment. I think the pause is the most important thing.

I think if y’all are going to take nothing else away, like, we are all used to going full steam ahead, hustle as much as possible, as much as we rail against it, we all are guilty of fast, fast, quick break things and just pausing and sitting in that discomfort.

Because I do think what you can feel in the energy of these commercials, that are all the same, is their rush to release the tension.  

Yeah. And like, that’s really the problem, is that you actually have to sit in the tension. That’s what these are missing. Is that you have to sit in the tension, and you have to go, “I don’t actually know how to respond right now.”

(laughing)

“And okay!” Because what this… 

Exactly! 

But, like, what these allowed them to do, let’s be real here. And this is how we opened the episode was to say, “This was not for you.”

This wasn’t for the movements. This wasn’t for COVID.

This was, “How do I say I saved my own ass so we can move on with business?”

That is not the appropriate energy. That’s why it came out so poorly.  

Yep. Amen.  

As a final note, I do want to add that a lot of these commercials, why didn’t I do this for commercials?

Anyway…

To expand the screen, probably?  

Like, I don’t know. A lot of these commercials have new B-roll with people with masks on.  

Oh, right. All I can think about is like, you had to put a whole staff together to film this. Like, that means you had a production crew and a videographer and actors. And then like, people on set.

So, like, at least 20 people, 30 people like, so, what? Why would you be filming new stuff and then telling me you care about COVID?

So, like, there are these blatant blind spots when you don’t pause, When you don’t sit with the tension, when you don’t really allow yourself to get uncomfortable.  

“We’re here for you, just not these guys.”

(laughing)  

All right, y’all. Crisis management is uncomfortable. You’re obviously not PR people, but you can always see when it’s not having the intended effect.

‘Cause the intended effect is to make your people, the people who buy from you, your customers, your clients, your audience, feel safe. Feel led, feel like they know you a little bit.

So the point of crisis management is it’s hard. It’s hard. It’s hard to get right, because crisis means that it’s in the moment we’re going too fast. We’re gonna break things. It’s gonna be wrong, so…

Yeah.  

We want to pause. We want to lean into that discomfort. We want to go into it from a heart-centered open-minded place.

I know the language sounds weird. I know, I get it, I get it.

We want metrics. We want hard results. But these are the kinds of things that it is not a difficult thing to get right, if you pause and think about the people on the other end of your ad and what they might be feeling.  

Amen.  

The end! HAMYAW over.  

We solved crisis response, amazing! You’re welcome, everyone.  

We want to hear from y’all. I want to hear what commercials you saw that actually moved you, what you thought totally missed the mark, what you did or any of your fails. We want to hear them below.

Crises are hard and sometimes you only know, you know, what works and doesn’t in retrospect. So tell us what you’ve learned. And if you liked this episode, please like it below. Subscribe to our channel. Where’s the subscribe?  

It’s over here somewhere, yeah.  

And share it with your friends. I’m Margo Aaron.  

And I’m Hillary Weiss.  

This is HAMYAW, we’ll see you in two weeks.  

Bye for now guys, don’t eat too many Oreos.

Photo by Juliet Clare Warren

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