“Post-Crisis Communication” offered some great insights from key members of Albuquerque’s business and communications communities: Kristelle Siarza, Jake McCook of McCook Strategies, and Annemarie Henton of Albuquerque Economic Development. In case you didn’t get the chance to participate, we decided to transcribe the webinar and increase its accessibility. View the transcript below, and watch the video here:

 

Main speaker: Kristelle Siarza (00:00):

I do want to apologize so we will not be able to actually broadcast on YouTube, but we are actually recording this webinar. So we will be able to share with everybody our webinar afterwards. As we all know, we really don’t know what to expect when it comes to jumping on a webinar. So thank you all for being so patient with us. But at the end of the day, the reason why we decided to do this webinar is because many of us are very nervous. We don’t know what to expect when the economy is going to be reopening. We don’t know what to expect in terms of whether or not are business is going to be okay. What we do know as marketers as a whole, and again, I can’t thank Annemarie and Jake for being here is that we’re going to help everybody build their post-crisis checklist and then also chat with Annemarie.

Main speaker: Kristelle Siarza (00:00):

I do want to apologize so we will not be able to actually broadcast on YouTube, but we are actually recording this webinar. So we will be able to share with everybody our webinar afterwards. As we all know, we really don’t know what to expect when it comes to jumping on a webinar. So thank you all for being so patient with us. But at the end of the day, the reason why we decided to do this webinar is because many of us are very nervous. We don’t know what to expect when the economy is going to be reopening. We don’t know what to expect in terms of whether or not are business is going to be okay. What we do know as marketers as a whole, and again, I can’t thank Annemarie and Jake for being here is that we’re going to help everybody build their post-crisis checklist and then also chat with Annemarie.

Main speaker: Kristelle Siarza (00:53):

But one thing I want to make sure that everybody’s aware of is that and give me a thumbs up if you can see our screens. Jake, Annemarie, we’re good to go. We can see the presentation screen. Our expectations today we’re going to really talk about marketing and the foot of marketing, it’s the four Ps, product, place, price and promotion. We’ll go over the checklist. We’ll also go over crisis planning. One thing that we were going to especially stress is that the explanation of being nimble and pivoting with marketing. One thing we don’t have a specialty in doing is that we’re not necessarily experts when it comes to health. We’re not experts in operations and we’re not experts in financial recommendations. So bear with us. We’re only going to be talking about what we’re very comfortable with which is a communications and marketing.

Main speaker: Kristelle Siarza (01:38):

So from there I’ll dive right into it. We did some research specifically for some of our clients. And we looked at what is the best closest opportunity to parallel what’s going on to the community right now to what has happened in the past, any empirical or historical evidence. We found some evidence related to SARS, Swine flu, Ebola and Zika. The countries impacted at that time were China and Mexico, Africa and Brazil. As you can see on the right hand side, it’s the impressions of how the global stock market had changed post crisis or post the health issues. One of the things that we also noticed not only from that that research showing that, not only did the economy bounce back one month after the peak the pandemic and three months after the peak, but we noticed that specifically in hotels, once they had an opportunity to not only showcase their strong brand image showing high quality service and increased marketing expenditure, that’s when we knew that the company was going to bounce back and bounce back quickly.

Main speaker: Kristelle Siarza (02:57):

If they showed measures against their strong image or if they cut costs or reduce prices and were very financially driven in making that dollar, they didn’t rebound back as well enough. One thing to also implement is that SARS and H1 has shown that the peak is really, really, really bad. That’s currently what we’re in right now. But as you can see this number is actually specifically the ADR and the ADR being the annual daily rate of a hotel. And one of the things that was interesting about this is that hotels recovered really well in these specific countries. If they overemphasized their cleanliness and their safety procedures. And why is that critical? What we mean by that is they show that it was business as usual, but they over-communicated how they kept their guests safe, how they kept their employees safe and it showed goodwill and authenticity. And whenever the hotels, in this case study exemplify that showed how temperature changes, masks, the sanitization protocols and procedures, they bounced back really quickly.

Main speaker: Kristelle Siarza (04:14):

So after this research that we did at Siarza, this is how we came up with our seven points of how to help your organization bounce back very quickly from the pandemic. These seven points are going to be in discussion. I’m going to go one by one specifically to help us. Number one, your first audience that should be ultimately engaged should be your employees. Communicate your cleanliness. That’s an important piece to making sure that you can rebound really quickly. Positioning your procedure, designing your outward advertising, drafting your digital marketing and communicating the changes that you kept, and most importantly, preparing for negativity in crisis and we’ll talk about that here in a minute. Number one, your first audience is your employees.

Main speaker: Kristelle Siarza (05:08):

The critical piece to this particular point is that your employees are your best brand ambassadors. Over communicating your financial picture with them and implementing something that we PR practitioners call internal communications is really going to be the key to success during the post open. And the nice thing is that you can begin talking to them if you haven’t already. Over communicate your financial picture, so that way they feel safe and secure and are proud about the fact. I can say from personal experience doing this with my team, not only are they confident, but they’ve been rocking and rolling. Not only are they continuing business as usual, but they’re becoming great brand ambassadors for our organization. Debrief and manage your client cleanliness and safety protocols.

Main speaker: Kristelle Siarza (05:54):

There are a great amount of experts that are out there that help you make sure that you dot your Is and cross your Ts when it comes to sanitation for not only food and safety, but also from making sure your windows are clean or making sure your tables are clean, your guests, lobbies, et cetera. Making sure that your employees are involved in that process would be really critical. And most importantly, vulnerability. We’re all vulnerable at this point. We’re all don’t know what’s going to happen. Our anxiety is high and our stress levels are as high as well. So it never hurts to actually be vulnerable with your employees and let them know that this is the current state that we’re in right now and if you’re on the bus, you’re on the bus. If you’re not on the bus, we totally understand.

Main speaker: Kristelle Siarza (06:41):

Moving on to number two and to number three, your cleanliness and your procedure for sanitation. This is a really key piece especially because some people may realize that this needs to be the new norm. So whenever you’re thinking about writing out your protocols, think about how are you keeping your customers safe? When you write your protocols, that can ultimately be your messaging. How are you keeping your employees safe? Once you write those protocols out, those can also be your messages when it comes to social media, your website, et cetera. Some companies are actually opting for scientific and medical integrations, like hiring outside companies to help with temperature testing or even health related issues though that’s not what we’re necessarily recommending. If your organization is or if you are an employee of an organization, those are great things to talk about and to begin preparing for whenever you’re ready to begin talking to customers. In fact that should be the first message that you have before you start asking for the sale.

Main speaker: Kristelle Siarza (07:59):

Outdoor and digital advertising is an important part to start considering into your checklist. And the reason why is that our economy is expected to open within the 30 to 90 days. Especially if you’re in the outdoor world, if you’re trying to even think about traditional advertising or in digital, the process time to actually make these ads conceptually think about it or create the creative is 30 to 90 days. So now is the right time to think about, “Is it time to pivot our marketing strategies or sales presentations? Is it time for us to begin printing or preparing the under capacity, but now open type of signage or of work?” You can save a lot of money by not paying those rush fees. It’s time to maybe think about fiscally, can we afford rewards or programs to not only keep our customers, but ask them to return and maybe even think about, gifts of gratitude or opportunities to help clients come back.

Main speaker: Kristelle Siarza (09:08):

Whether it be I think you gift, it doesn’t have to be a discount. It can just be making sure that your message really helps remind them of why they love your establishment or why they continue to choose business with you. Really quickly, I wanted to make sure that you can communicate the changes that you’ve kept. Some of us have gone to all E-commerce, restaurants are doing curbside delivery. My favorite example is that the local piece of place outside of the west side in Rio Rancho is not only delivering pizzas, but they’re also delivering games. That’s huge. Even though you might have made changes from a safety perspective, I want you all to remember that just because it was made for safety reasons, it’s now convenience. So however you can over communicate the changes that you plan on keeping, it helps mold the psychology of buyers.

Main speaker: Kristelle Siarza (10:08):

Because the psychology of us right now, it’s ever so changing with the panic of the pandemic at its own. And most importantly remember to reemphasize that the changes that you’ve kept are for building the customer relationships that you have and help keep everybody as loyal as possible. So with that, our last point is actually going to be talking about crisis. I’m going to actually open the floor specifically with both Annemarie and Jake. And the reason why I’m going to open it up to them is not only do… Annemarie is an APR, in our world that is an Accredited Professional in Public relations. And Jake has been doing crisis communications on a government level, on a local level and also in a commerce level. So I want to open up, talking about preparing for negativity in crisis because we actually already are into the crisis. Am I right Jake? Am I right, Annmarie?

third speaker: Annemarie Henton (11:03):

Yeah.

second speaker: Jake McCook (11:04):

Yeah.

Main speaker: Kristelle Siarza (11:04):

Oh yeah, we’re in it. So, Jake if you wanted to go ahead and talk a little bit, Annemarie jump in as you see fit and we’ll go from there.

second speaker: Jake McCook (11:12):

Sure. Thanks Kristelle. Well, there are three main points to think about and I’m going to talk more specifically about the nuts and bolts of crisis communication. But one thing I think is really specific to us in New Mexico is we have the opportunity to really watch public perception in other states who are opening earlier and we can learn a lot from those lessons and what they’re doing specifically how people are reacting to that. I encourage you to watch that public conversation as other states are opening and see how you can apply that to your business for your state in New Mexico. The one thing I will overemphasize here throughout my whole presentation is that your customers and your employees are going to react differently throughout this whole thing. The beginning, the middle and the end of this.

second speaker: Jake McCook (12:00):

When you’re communicating, you have to find a way to make sure that you’re inclusive of everyone, but your messages remain consistent because you don’t want to go to one side and then alienate the other half, right? Like there’s going to be a group out there who is so ready to go and jump on it and spend money and visit stuff and then there’s going to be folks on the opposite end who are really scared to do that and when they see those people doing that, they could even get more afraid and be less likely to come be a patron of your business. The third thing is you got to prepare and I’m going to talk a little bit more specifically about that. The best prepared companies I think whether these crisises and you’re seeing that now, but we’re going to talk more specifically about what you can be doing now so that you’re prepared when the doors open. Here in New Mexico we’re looking at May 15th. Annemarie, you want to add anything?

third speaker: Annemarie Henton (12:55):

Yeah, I want to jump in with two things. First of all, crisis communications is a lot like customer service 101 where you address the issue. Jake will talk about it and give you a roadmap here in a minute, but you address the issue, you tell your publics what it is that you’re doing to make it better and then you keep communicating with them. So how many of us have been in situations where we weren’t very happy with our service or a product, but because somebody made it better, we remember the experience with the company versus the initial problem and be thinking about that. I think a great local case study for crisis communications, I’m going to put them on the spot, is Dion’s.

third speaker: Annemarie Henton (13:31):

A couple of years ago, Dion’s had an issue where they had a health issue come up with listeria and the way that they reacted immediately, the way that they communicated along the way and the way that they were able to maintain their brand loyalty and their customer satisfaction was because they were proactive and they were focused on their customers the entire time. It was about doing the right thing for the customer and for the employee versus just looking at numbers on a screen. Kristelle talked about that where of course money matters, but at the end of the day we’re talking about human beings and your human beings are either your employees or your customers.

Main speaker: Kristelle Siarza (14:11):

Absolutely. So now we move on to the panel part that we can actually expand upon the crisis. I know Jake’s going to start off on this question. How can companies best prepare for future crises when it comes to marketing and communications? And for those of you that don’t know or miss the beginning of this presentation, Jake is the owner of McCook Strategies, Social Impact Communications. So Jake let’s talk about crisis 101.

second speaker: Jake McCook (14:35):

Sure. Well, I’ll start by saying, and building off of what Annemarie said is exactly right. This is a little bit customer service and crisis 101. But when you break it down and you think about this, there’s a lot of stuff you could overlook and I can you, I’ve been doing this for more than 10 years in a lot of different settings and I’ve served Fortune 500 companies and the smallest nonprofits and I can tell you these principles are the same across the board, no matter where you come from or where you work. Like I said, the ones who come out of these situations successfully are the ones who planned ahead and the ones who don’t plan, they are the ones who fail or have a negative impact on their brand, which can really last moving forward. So today I’m going to focus on the nuts and bolts of crisis communications.

second speaker: Jake McCook (15:23):

I know some of you probably already are having a crash of course, in this or did already when the outbreak first happened and you had to alter your communications very quickly because I don’t think any of us really went through the process of preparing for something like this. So I’m going to focus my comments on how you can communicate the next steps as we reopen. Crisis is a scary word, but it doesn’t have to be. What we’re really just talking about is how you should be talking to your audiences moving forward. This should be really thought of in all aspects of your business or your organization. How you communicate with your employees, like Kristelle said, how you communicate with your customers, whether it’s online or in person, and how do you deal with the public health orders that affect your business or organization and how do you get that information out to your customers, employees in a way that’s going to make them feel safe and secure.

second speaker: Jake McCook (16:14):

So the way I like to do this is really kind of fun and easy. It’s just scenario planning. You sit down with your team and you think about all the different scenarios that could affect your business and your customers. But think about it in the way of what could happen as we reopen. And you can do this in a simple green, yellow, red light system, like a stoplight. So the first thing the green is to figure out what is most likely to happen and how you’re going to communicate it. So for example, you know you’re going to get a lot of questions from your audiences, right? And you’re probably going to get some criticisms, “When are you opening? How is it safe? If you’re not opening now, why not? When will you?” So if you’re not already, you should be coming up with a list of all these questions and maybe it’s just a simple FAQ document, but have that prepared to go out across all your channels and be really specific.

second speaker: Jake McCook (17:05):

Don’t just say we’re practicing social distancing, right? Like say, “What that means is all of our employees are required to wear gloves and masks and customers will be asked to be six feet away from each other.” That level of specificity is I think what folks are really looking for. And again, back to the point about customers reacting differently, you got to think about those different feelings and concerns that they’re going to have. Think about that on that spectrum of folks being really excited and ready to go and then folks being really scared, what kind of questions are they going to have in both camps? And when you do communicate, you don’t have to be defensive about it, especially if you are not ready to open quite yet. We’ll talk a little bit more about how you can do that safely in the messaging part.

second speaker: Jake McCook (17:49):

The second category real quick is what might happen that you should be prepared for. It may or may not, for example, you might be overwhelmed during your opening, hopefully in a good way. You have really good business right out of the gate. But what happens if you’re set up and all of a sudden your website goes down or you have a temporary pause in your business that you have to go back and communicate? I’ll give an example of the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions that handles unemployment in the state. They’ve obviously had a lot of challenges over the past six weeks or so of getting unemployment to people who have never qualified for it and just the regular people who do qualify for it, they were not very proactive in answering people’s questions and you could see that frustration and build up over time, especially online.

second speaker: Jake McCook (18:40):

And it wasn’t until a couple of days ago where the head of the department actually stepped in and started to give out his personal email and respond to people individually because they were just so far frustrated and kept repeating. They kept saying, “I feel like nobody is out there. I need to talk to a human.” And you have to think, an agency like that or any other agency or organization, you should be able to be prepared for that from a communication standpoint, right? Like the technical stuff is hard to prepare for, but you know that you’re going to have all these questions and so what is the communications infrastructure that you’re setting up so that you can have that feedback with folks. The one thing in this category is you should think about, what if there’s a spike in cases and that’s the third category of it might not happen, but if it does and you’re not prepared for it, that can really get to you.

second speaker: Jake McCook (19:32):

So think about what your threshold is and be ready to communicate why you’re doing or you’re not doing something. [Raver 00:19:41], can we slip to the Alamo Drafthouse tweet real fast in the slide? I want to give a good example. I just saw this the other day. This is from the Alamo Drafthouse theater chain around the country, which I love with my whole heart. And they are a Texas based company and they just flat out put this out there. We’re not opening our Texas theater. You know, opening safely is very complex that involves new procedures and extensive training and it’s not something we can do quickly or casually. And you can see the comments were really, really positive about that because they were just very clear and honest about that.

second speaker: Jake McCook (20:16):

So in that last category, I know it’s scary to think about but that probably won’t happen, but will. Think about it in terms of your employees and your customers, that two category audience there. So that’s my 101 for crisis. There’s a couple of other tips we can share with the slides, but I’m going to go into the messaging part. Before I do, Kristelle, Annemarie, do you want to add anything there?

third speaker: Annemarie Henton (20:47):

I really think that you outlined it very clearly and I always like to think of crisis communications because it freaks you out to think about worst case scenario. It can be somewhat of a scary or frustrating exercise. So I always try to reframe it in my mind as take it seriously, but don’t let it invade the excitement of the work that this is one component of running the business or of meeting your customer’s needs or of communicating and connecting with your team. Try and look at it as a piece of the puzzle and not as the doomsday exercise that it might feel like in and out and check out. Everybody’s experiencing the shift in remote work. For a lot of people, it’s been a hard change to be able to do that, to be on all the time or to figure out time management. Same thing with crisis communications. If you feel overwhelmed, if you’re feeling negative emotions when you’re going through that exercise, step away and come back.

Main speaker: Kristelle Siarza (21:50):

I will add on to that specifically. I think one of the things that can also get overwhelming, with a layer of crisis communications is when you throw digital into it where it’s the jury of Facebook and the jury of Twitter that’s laid on top of it. And the critical piece is responding and responding with compassion, responding with a level head, responding less panicked, then you might be taking a step back and realizing it. And then I always ask this question like, “Is it genuinely a crisis or is it genuinely just an issue or an operational problem?” Like Alamo Drafthouse, I saw that tweet come over the weekend. They nipped the problem in the bud really quickly and not only did they do that, but they gain many more people as customers afterwards. So I’m with you that the crisis is… there’s always a different element whenever you start to add digital on top of it.

third speaker: Annemarie Henton (22:44):

Okay. Let me if I may add one more thing, sometimes being proactive in crisis communications can lead you down a path that is creating a whole new avenue for you. So do you guys remember a couple of years ago, I forget what year it was in the Super Bowl, when the lights went out?

Main speaker: Kristelle Siarza (23:01):

Oh yeah, of course I remember that [crosstalk 00:23:03].

third speaker: Annemarie Henton (23:05):

Oreo got that brilliant free tweet of, “You Can Still Dunk In The Dark.” And what that did for their PR. So being able to bring levity and personal conversation to the crisis and trying to inject some humanity and fun, while of course still being very mindful of the very real problems you or your public’s may be experiencing can really open the door for some exciting marketing and advertising and sales down the road.

Main speaker: Kristelle Siarza (23:33):

Absolutely. Can we do this particular part of messaging tips in about one to two minutes, Jake? Because you have a really funny slide that I want to make sure that you get to.

second speaker: Jake McCook (23:42):

Sure. I’ll try to go through this really quickly. You can see this slide here, if you stick to these categories when you’re figuring out how to communicate, whether it’s on social media or with your employees, if you stick to this, I think it’s going to inspire confidence with your folks and they’re going to think that you really have it covered and so they’re going to be with you throughout the journey of reopening. The first and most important thing is you have to say the words, the safety of our customers is our number one priority. That sounds… sorry.

Main speaker: Kristelle Siarza (24:21):

No, you’re okay.

second speaker: Jake McCook (24:23):

If you don’t say those words, no one’s going to trust you or really listen to what you have to say after. And that goes into the most important part of being honest and transparent. Look, don’t be afraid to tell customers exactly what you’re doing to protect them and the business or the organization. If you don’t know, say you don’t know, that’s okay. I don’t think people are going to expect you to have all the answers, but if you just shy away and don’t say anything, then people are just going to worry or spread false information or forget about you. And so this goes to the next two of communicate early and often like Annemarie said. I think the brands who do that are the ones who are most successful, even if it’s a simple, “We’re working on it and we’re going to get back to you. We’re working on it.” A lot of people are saying that, but you can get better than that and you can say, “Here are three specific things we’re doing right now to make it better and we’ll have another update for you by the end of the week.”

second speaker: Jake McCook (25:20):

That level of specificity I think will carry you a long way. The one important thing, and this goes to the funny slide, Kristelle on this, communicate like a human. Like before this confused people. Thank you. This is really important to think about, right? I don’t know about you, but it seems like all of a sudden I was best friends with every CEO in America who started emailing me personally and telling me about the company, and they just did it with a lot of the same corporate speak and after the third day I just tuned it out. There’s also a great video out there that shows how every corporate video of the crisis is the exact same, right? The same music and the same people and the same message.

second speaker: Jake McCook (26:03):

Don’t fall into that trap and try to replicate them, stay on brand, keep it short, keep it simple. And like Annemarie said, be vulnerable. Be honest. This is a time when people are craving authenticity and really want to communicate the frustrations that they’re having, the emotion that they’re having and so if you do that from your business organization, that’s going to go a long way. The final point is to be consistent in your messaging and to give accurate information. And Kristelle, you can put up the slide here.

Main speaker: Kristelle Siarza (26:37):

It’s okay, sorry.

second speaker: Jake McCook (26:38):

It’s okay. This is an example of one of my favorite Saturday Night Live characters. If you Google Weekend Update, Second-Hand news, you will find him. His name is Anthony Crispino and he’s the guy who gets this news from around the block. I think I have a few friends who were like him. They’re saying things like, “Well I heard the governor’s going to limit the amount of alcohol that you can buy when the stores reopened.” Or, “I heard that if you get tested positive for COVID after we reopened, then you have to pay your own bills and you can’t get in employment anymore.” So I’m sure you can relate to a lot of these rumors going around. The point of this is, speak with authority for your business or organization, but don’t speak on behalf of anyone else. Try to give the best public health and government backed information that you can and don’t rely on rumors or anecdotes or untrustworthy sources because it’s just going to confuse and frustrate people.

second speaker: Jake McCook (27:33):

I think that’s what the situation we’re in right now. There’s a lot of anxiety and confusion and frustration, but once you open the doors, you’re going to need to be really buttoned up so that you’re not hemming and hawing and hedging about what you’re saying and just very clear about this is what we’re doing, this is why we’re doing it and this is what we’re going to keep doing moving forward. So don’t be Anthony Crispino and the Second-Hand news.

third speaker: Annemarie Henton (27:55):

Absolutely.

Main speaker: Kristelle Siarza (27:56):

We’re going to move on really quickly, Annmarie, I’m going to lean on you to answer this question since it’s such a big part of not only what you do at Albuquerque Economic Development, but how might consumer behavior change the crisis and how might the business landscape change? I just want to say many of your members are actually on this call right now. We’re very, very thankful for them. Pardon me? For the technical difficulties. We will upload this video onto our Facebook page, enter our YouTube channel right away, but shout out to Albuquerque Economic Development for doing what they do. Talk about the business landscape Annemarie, let’s just lay it all out. Let’s put all the cards on the table and talk about the business landscape. It’s unpredictable, right?

third speaker: Annemarie Henton (28:35):

Right. So let’s just put it out there that nobody knows what’s going to happen and most of us don’t know exactly what we’re doing right now because even in crisis planning, how many companies, I’ve talked to in the last couple of weeks who are like, “We had a crisis plan for active shooter. We had a crisis plan for a tornado. We had a crisis plan for all of these things. But guess what? We never thought about? We never thought there would be a pandemic or that there would be…” So it’s okay in this period of time that people don’t necessarily have all the right answers yet, but I have been really motivated and interested in how quickly both people and businesses have been able to pivot and keep moving forward and get as excited as possible about what they are able to accomplish in this space and trying to make sure that what they’re doing now is laying the groundwork for a couple of weeks from now, a couple months from now and into the future.

third speaker: Annemarie Henton (29:38):

Of course, the first thing on everybody’s mind right now is money. When you close down foot traffic, when you close down meeting spaces, all of these things that we don’t think about in the chain of how things happen in business have been affected. So there is absolutely nobody in the world at this point who is being unaffected when it comes to industry or business. There’s also a really interesting dichotomy, when you think about essential versus nonessential companies that pivoted easily because they had made the technology investments early versus some of those who hadn’t. There are some companies that are so busy and growing like crazy right now because of what they produce or what they do in a service capacity. But then there’s also others who are just trying to figure out how to keep the doors open through Friday.

third speaker: Annemarie Henton (30:30):

Same thing with individuals. 45 days ago in economic development, we were seeing record employment, everything was about labor, labor, labor, which cities have the people that we need, and that conversation has changed entirely. It’s gone the other way. So it’s going to change our business a bit in terms of marketing and communications and that’s going to have to play out for us to truly understand what are going to be the really important strategic messaging components as we move forward in this. I would also say, especially as marketing and communications professionals, we are ingrained with strategic planning, planning, messaging, planning, planning. How many of us, raise your virtual hand if you spent hours and months last year getting ready for 2020.

third speaker: Annemarie Henton (31:20):

This is going to be the year. We’re going to follow this strategic plan. And all of a sudden here we are 30, 45 days later and that’s gone. The strategic plan has gone and so trying to transition to what I would call strategic doing is really important in marketing and communications right now because what’s your publics needed three weeks ago versus what they’re interested in or need today versus what they’re going to be interested and concerned about three weeks from now. Like Jake said, that is all going to change and so you have to be nimble with your messaging and you have to make sure that you are paying attention to your publics and getting to know your publics and give yourself a little freedom as a marketing professional or expert that it’s okay that you don’t know anything or everything right now, either one, because nobody does.

third speaker: Annemarie Henton (32:09):

Keep giving yourself a pat on the back that a lot of this right now has to do with intuition and paying attention to headlines and understanding what your specific publics really want. I can tell you an economic development, at least from AEDs perspective, our project activity remains really strong. So all of those companies that we were working with before are still looking at our market. We are still getting new projects in the door. People who are very interested in our market moving forward. Where we are seeing a shift course right now is visits to our community aren’t happening right now. And so lot of those pieces that really close the deal are being delayed.

third speaker: Annemarie Henton (32:49):

A lot of companies aren’t making decisions right now. They’re kind of in this wait and see pattern. But I do want everybody on the call to understand that people are hopeful about business in the future knowing that we’re probably going to have a lot of economic challenges for the next who knows how many months, that there are going to be a lot of bright spots as well. Let’s transition if I might and then questions and answers of course, if anybody wants us to expand on any of this, let us know.

Main speaker: Kristelle Siarza (33:18):

One thing I do want to mention, the questions are now open. We are hoping to receive questions from you all the last 10 to 15 minutes. We might go over by 11:00 to 11:05, if that’s okay. But questions can be asked on Zoom on our Twitter account @SiarzaSD and also on our Facebook page. But Annemarie, talk about the perception of the change in consumer behavior.

third speaker: Annemarie Henton (33:40):

I did a little bit of research just because you’re all data nerds if you’re communications and marketing people raise your virtual hand, again, if those Instagram ads are getting you at home while you’re in captivity. I just bought cactus pajamas. I don’t even know why they were a little bit cute. I really wanted them. That stuff didn’t work on me before and it is working on me now. The stats that came out this morning, 58 million more Americans are spending money while social distancing, which is interesting because you would think with so many people struggling with unemployment, that spending would go down. Actually E-commerce to be expected is way up. A lot of people are shopping to ease stress. The reason I think that’s important is even in what I would call a normal market, 95% of consumer decisions are made based on emotion.

third speaker: Annemarie Henton (34:36):

So, even though we’ve had all of these years and years of logic and we think that we’re making decisions based on reason, the reality is most of the time, if not all the time the decisions that we’re making about our purchasing totally come down to emotion. There’s a quote that I love from a book called Unconscious Branding: How Neuroscience Can Empower (and Inspire) Marketing. And the quote goes, “The most startling truth is we don’t even think our way to logical solutions, we feel our way to reason. Emotions are the substrate, the base layer of neurocircuitry underpinning even rational deliberation.” So emotions don’t hinder decisions, they constitute the foundation on which they’re made. And so knowing that people already make decisions emotionally, then put on the frame of reference around this pandemic and what that’s doing to our emotions in terms of how are we responding to anxiety.

third speaker: Annemarie Henton (35:35):

I mentioned in the beginning, I’m having an interesting response where my husband keeps saying, “I’m like the rabbit in Zootopia and that Sloss scene where I’m like, go, go, go, go, go, go, go.” And then I’m working with other people who are like, “Leave me alone. I need a day to just not be in this space.” And consumer behavior is going to be like that as well. Jake talked a lot about when you reopen, how are you communicating with your publics and there are going to be some people who are guns blazing back to what they would consider normal life, right? Like no fear. But the reality is for many months there’s going to be a lot of people who might not be comfortable sitting in a restaurant yet. Who might not be comfortable walking in spaces with people that are close to them, standing in line.

third speaker: Annemarie Henton (36:20):

There’s going to be some trauma from this in terms of psychology and how people respond to your brand. I do want to point out though, it’s opening the door for something really amazing in my opinion, for marketing and communications professionals and brands in general. And that is we were already experiencing this hunger for authentic communication and authentic connection with other people and with brands. That is more true than ever. Like Jake said, I never want to see another email about COVID-19 for the rest of my life. Like let’s just not even put that word in there, right? It gives me anxiety. But I do love it when an executive of a company or you see a video where someone is just saying what they think even in this panel, “You know, we’re not scripted. We’re actually giving people insight into what we think and feel.”

third speaker: Annemarie Henton (37:14):

People are really hungry for that. So as a result, expectations have shifted. I think that consumers are giving us as brands a grace period. A couple of weeks ago, if my Amazon package wasn’t here in the next day, wouldn’t you freak out? Now it’s like, “Oh cool, I’ll get it in three weeks. I’m good with that.” So there’s no better time, no better time for brands and professionals to try new things. You have this grace period to, “Oops sorry, we didn’t know how to use Zoom before, but now we do.”

Main speaker: Kristelle Siarza (37:45):

[inaudible 00:37:45] with my life.

third speaker: Annemarie Henton (37:46):

“We didn’t sell online before We’re trying to figure it out.” There are companies who are trying things like delivery and then scaling it back because they realized they can’t keep their quality promise up. But again, staying in front of people in that way is going to be really interesting and from the HR perspective, when it comes to your employees, this is one of those generationally defining moments. Kind of like 9/11 or others where previous to this we did things one way and after this we’re going to do them differently.

Main speaker: Kristelle Siarza (38:17):

Yeah, absolutely.

third speaker: Annemarie Henton (38:18):

Let’s look at that as exciting. It doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

Main speaker: Kristelle Siarza (38:23):

Definitely. I stopped the presentation because again, we’re going to fly by the seat of our pants here. Sophie Martin, a good colleague of ours from New Mexico in Focus, fellow panelist. Sophie asked a really fantastic question that I think many of us in the room would love and I want to say thank you to all 50 participants. I know schedules come up, but we have 50 people on the call right now and soon more afterwards. All of them have stayed on the call this time around. So thank you for not being bored with our presentation, but Sophie asked a really, really great question. She asked, “Given that many customers are experiencing significant pain and are, in some cases, acting out on that pain, how can we counsel our staff to answer with compassion when the answer is that we cannot resolve their pain?”

Main speaker: Kristelle Siarza (39:17):

I have a question, in fact, I’ll give you some time. How do we council employees and customers that though they’re in peril and though they’re in pain, we simply can’t really solve their problem or resolve that? I’m happy to start so I can give you guys some time to think about that if somebody wants to jump in right away, open for discussion.

third speaker: Annemarie Henton (39:41):

I’m not sure I’m necessarily “qualified” to answer, but I can tell you…

Main speaker: Kristelle Siarza (39:45):

I don’t know any of that.

third speaker: Annemarie Henton (39:48):

Sophie, always with the good questions.

Main speaker: Kristelle Siarza (39:51):

Yes. Let’s debate it.

third speaker: Annemarie Henton (39:52):

So in my role at AED, my job is really to be the lead generator, to be on the road, to be bringing new business to Albuquerque and we of course are still focusing on that. But in this crisis we went full on into making sure that we could do anything we could for local businesses. AED is not government. We don’t have massive amounts of money that we can give away. We can’t have any sway or influence when it comes to banking, that kind of thing. But what we can do is be that partner for somebody to give them the right information, to help them understand what is or isn’t available, to follow up with them, to make sure that they know we’re still thinking about them. So I would say in a very roundabout way, if you can’t help somebody’s pain, you can say that you can’t help their pain, but you can tell them what you can do for them.

third speaker: Annemarie Henton (40:47):

I think about it with in terms of like if you have a friend who is going through intense grief, nothing you say is going to take away the pain, but there are things you can do along the way that help them like bring them dinner, like make sure that they are getting up, showering and going to work. There are things along the way that might seem out of your mission I would say, but that can still have a very real impact. And there’s a lot of training available in terms of customer service and that kind of thing that help you find the words to be able to acknowledge someone’s pain and then try and help them move on from that.

Main speaker: Kristelle Siarza (41:27):

Absolutely. Jake, your thoughts?

second speaker: Jake McCook (41:29):

I mean, I hate to give a simple answer, but it really simple. Answer with compassion, right? If that’s the question of how you do it. It goes back to what I was saying about being honest and transparent and just communicating like a human, right? If you don’t have all the answers, it’s okay to say that. And like Annemarie said, figure out a way to say, “We’re here for you and here’s some things that might help you.” But I’m sure if you’re a senior leader and you had to furlough your staff and their unemployment and they’re frustrated with the unemployment system, that’s not your responsibility to figure that out for them. And that’s such a frustrating thing. But what are things that you can control that you can do to help them as you navigate through that?

second speaker: Jake McCook (42:14):

I think that’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned throughout all of this is that I can’t control what’s going on out in the world, or I can’t control this state or that state or the president. I can control, my family and me and my own little circle and so how can I adapt to what’s going on around me? From a business perspective, like Annemarie said, I mean, being a counselor right now and I counsel a lot of clients, is what I do. It’s really hard. I work a lot in media relations where I’m actively pitching the media and trying to get stories out there. Now’s not the best time to do that. So my clients were like, “Well, what is your advice?” And you know what my advice was? “Let’s not pitch anything until we get through the public health crisis. Your product or service is not the most important thing right now.

second speaker: Jake McCook (42:58):

That was hard to say and I said it very diplomatically, but I think that’s the honest answer, right? Like you don’t want to just go out there and try things and think, “Well, I might be able to get this or that.” Give yourself some space and give the public some space to figure this out and then ease into it a little bit more humanly, if that makes sense.

Main speaker: Kristelle Siarza (43:18):

If I was to answer this question and I want to go back to how I know Sophie, from talking about debate and rhetoric, right? If they can’t comprehend the answer that we cannot resolve their pain, there’s two ways that I can see answering the question even further. Number one, help them find the resources that they need to help them learn the answer on their own. That’s one option, right? That’s one vehicle. You’re a perfect example is new sender. New sender says that if they can’t process a loan for you, they’re like, “We’re really sorry we can’t process this loan. However, we have this service for you where you can learn financial independency. We have this service for you, which is a child savings account or a savings account as well.”

Main speaker: Kristelle Siarza (44:07):

That’s one of the things that you can think about in terms of finding additional resources to help answer the question where you’re taking the tension off of the, “I can’t help you answer.” The second part is, if they’re willing not to be understanding, if they’re not willing to be compassionate, with a compassionate answer or with an authentic answer, I think the next best question is, “Is it really worth them being a client to you because of the amount of work, stress, and opportunity that it takes to work with them?” One of the things that we learn especially in the B2B section, is that sometimes we have to be selective with the type of clients that we work with because nothing’s going to make them happy. Even if they went to another vendor, nothing’s going to make them happy.

Main speaker: Kristelle Siarza (44:56):

And I know right now is a really sensitive time, so it’s not the right time to make that call, but it’s definitely worth that time to think about whenever you’re trying to scale up the business or ramp up the business is that, you have to pick your battles when it’s necessary, especially in a B2B environment. But moving on really quickly, I don’t actually think we’re going to get to the question guys that originally we added, but we have several more. Stephanie posted a really great a well-respected communications professional here. She says, “Everything is COVID response. What is another way to come at it from an asset based perspective?” I don’t know if you have any answers on that specific question. What’s another way to come at the COVID-19 response from an asset based perspective?

third speaker: Annemarie Henton (45:46):

I’m not sure I fully understand the way the question is being asked, but I’ll give a response based on how I think it’s being asked. So I think about the fact that in tourism and economic development, it’s our job to sell Albuquerque and it’s not necessarily the right time to try and sell a location over another. So we think a lot about, “How do we stay top of mind with people, or how do we attract people without being insensitive to that?” For example, with AED, a lot of what we do, I’m in airports all the time. We travel a lot, a lot of our marketing strategy is focused on in person events. We convene the business community frequently and so we’re going through a really intensive exercise right now about, “How do we recreate the magic of that in person experience, but do it virtually? What if for the next six months we changed our messaging, we changed our imaging?”

third speaker: Annemarie Henton (46:50):

I don’t want to speak on behalf of tourism, but Jake and I were involved in a luncheon last week where tourism was talking a little bit about how we’ve been showing all these images around people gathering and now we’re showing these beautiful images of these wide open spaces and reminding people that when you can move around, think about coming here. I’m not sure if I’m answering that correctly, but I think there’s always a way to remind people, “Hey, we have what you need and what you want.” But be very careful about how you say it.

Main speaker: Kristelle Siarza (47:28):

Jake, any addition responses? If not, we have another question that can be easily answered too.

second speaker: Jake McCook (47:34):

Well, and I don’t know if this answers the question specifically, but it got me thinking when Annemarie was talking, everything is so COVID-19 response and it’s kind of overwhelming. One of the things you can think about doing is how do you communicate that you’re just back in action and it’s business as usual. You can do that in a very human friendly, fun way. Simple things as like, “We’ve missed you. We’re glad you’re back.” And just really focusing on normal life again, and what your business or your organization provides for people. If you just say, “We’re glad to have this… the worst behind us, we’re still taking a look and making sure that we’re going to be safe moving forward, but let’s get back into it. Here are three things that we want to do and can do right now.” I think that’s really good opportunity to just help us get to this next step and try to get back to a little bit normal. And as communicators, you have the opportunity to do that with your messaging.

Main speaker: Kristelle Siarza (48:32):

Sure. This will be the last question for today and we want to thank everybody that’s starting to log off for their next meeting. So thank you again. Brandon from visit Albuquerque asked a really fantastic question that I’d like to take on first and then I’ll open it up and then we’ll close today’s conversation. “When things begin to recover, what suggestions do you have to stand out from the competition while still remaining empathetic and sensitive to the situation?” So again, when things begin to recover, what suggestions do you have to stand out from the competition while still remaining empathetic and sensitive to the situation? I think for me, the answer to that is going back to where the communication genuinely needs to be human. It’s not sales driven.

Main speaker: Kristelle Siarza (49:15):

It’s not about making sure that it’s a call to action for a percentage off. It’s not about the conversion, especially for marketing Albuquerque or especially marketing a city or a B2B like us. Who needs to hire somebody for social media? For us at this point, to make sure that you stand out of the competition is using the personality and the brand image and tying that into human interaction. Like for me, when I log off every call now with my team, I say, “I miss you guys and I love you and I can’t wait to see you guys all again in person.” Not to say that other agency owners do that, but I say that to my clients all the time.

Main speaker: Kristelle Siarza (50:00):

It’s like, “I’m worried about you, you guys, okay? We miss you. We love you. We hope you’re okay.” I think the personality of the brand or the voice of the brand can easily be replicated onto social media, onto the website, even onto a billboard or a television ad, whenever you break down that barrier of we’re a business and we’re just humans trying to make a buck that’s when you can really differentiate yourselves across the board. Jake, Annemarie, last word since it’s 11 o’clock and we’ll end really quickly.

second speaker: Jake McCook (50:33):

Yeah. Really quick. Beyonce said, “Work with what you got.” Right? Now’s the time for you to just be that business or that organization that people love and remember, and just be yourself again, right? Try to communicate that, “We all got through this really rough time together and we’re going to get through the phase together.” You’re competing for time and attention and money and just think about what people are going to be wanting to do at this moment and moving forward with that time and intention and money, and hopefully your business fills one of that role. But if you’re a gym, it’s real easy to say, “Gosh, we’re so happy to have you back. Are you ready to just get back into it again.” Just stick with what you know and what your customers want out of you and don’t try to be anyone else or do anything else for anybody other than what you’re really good at.

Main speaker: Kristelle Siarza (51:22):

Annemarie, last words.

third speaker: Annemarie Henton (51:23):

That is a great point. Mission creep, keep your focus. Connect emotionally, get to know your publics better than you ever have, but there is no better time to be gutsy. You have a grace period where if you stumble a little bit, that’s okay, you’re going to figure it out. You have an opportunity to pull down the walls and really connect with people in ways that are probably going to transform your business. How often do we spend a lot of time working in our businesses and not on our businesses? This is an incredible time to think about what’s the next innovation and that doesn’t have to be something world changing. The world has changed, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It can be this period of bold optimism around, “Okay, we know we got to grind. How are we going to do it?” And get excited about that.

Main speaker: Kristelle Siarza (52:13):

Absolutely. Jake, Annemarie, I miss you, I love you and I hope to see you all soon. I am forever grateful for giving us the opportunity. I will tell you this, that the chat conversations are coming in and everybody has been saying, “Thank you for the fantastic webinar. Stay safe, stay healthy. Don’t touch your face. Don’t touch your 401K.” Great. I can’t thank you all enough and thank you for our Siarza Social clients that are on the call, for AEDs members, friends of Jake, friends of Annemarie, friends of ourselves and for those of you that have heard. We’re going to be posting this on Facebook right away and on YouTube. We do apologize for the technical difficulties, but hey, we don’t know what the hell we’re doing.

Main speaker: Kristelle Siarza (52:58):

I wasn’t able to swear, so that’s a good thing. Annemarie and Jake, again, thank you so much, everybody for tuning in, thank you again. Please stay safe. We wish you the best of luck for your businesses. If you need anybody to vent to, my email, my contact information is everywhere online, happy to hear from everybody on the call. So thank you all so much.

third speaker: Annemarie Henton (53:19):

Thank you.

second speaker: Jake McCook (53:19):

Thank you. Bye.

Main speaker: Kristelle Siarza (53:21):

Bye everybody. Thank you, again.

Join Kristelle Siarza, owner and CEO of Siarza Social Digital, for a live lecture and panel-style discussion about how your marketing strategy could change in the wake of the public health emergency.

In the midst of COVID-19 pandemic, our team has come up with tips to help you navigate social media, plan public relations and prep to reopen after restrictions are lifted. We are here to help you succeed and to answer all your questions.