COVID-19 PLAYBOOK: How to make COVID-19 your very own brand crisis


A sprinkling of genuine headlines from the two weeks:

“Absolutely revolting: Ticketmaster quietly clarifies COVID-19 refund policy, sparks outrage”, USA Today, April 13th

“Reese Witherspoon’s Fashion Line Offered Free Dresses to Teachers. They Didn’t Mean Every Teacher”, New York Times, April 15th.

“Grocery delivery was supposed to be the ultimate pandemic lifeline. But it’s falling short”, Washington Post, April 15th.

“Why independent restaurant owners are fighting 3rd-party delivery platforms like Grubhub and Uber Eats”, Business Insider, April 16th.

Inspired by research conducted by the global PR agency, Edelman, last week we talked about how the pandemic crisis is an opportunity to build fresh connections with consumers, but only if you understand what it is consumers need and want to hear in these difficult times.

The theme was expanded upon this week by a new report, “Weathering the Storm: Brand Management in the COVID-19 Era”, from the consulting firm, Morning Consult.

If a brand is to weather the storm, among the key takeaways captured by the report were:

  • Consider the implications of how actions taken today can effect relationships tomorrow – trust can be broken in a moment.
  • Put people before profits to build affinity today, trust into the future and loyalty for the long term.
  • It’s no longer about talking about values, it’s about demonstrating them – show how you are helping.
  • Act with empathy, keep promises, provide useful information and make sacrifices to contribute to the greater good.
  • Show you are taking the situation seriously by acknowledging the social, financial and other realities of the pandemic, empathizing with people’s concerns and offering practical solutions.

It all makes perfect sense. 

As consumers ourselves, we would applaud the sentiments captured in the report.

It’s not that hard to be a good brand, a good corporate citizen during this global public health crisis, right?

So, let’s go back to those headlines:

  • The online ticketing company that is accused of quietly altering its terms to avoid having to give refunds for cancelled events.
  • The fashion line that only had 250 free dresses for teachers. Then they bombarded the tens of thousands of teachers who applied with sales emails.
  • The ‘instant’ grocery delivery brands that now, when you really need them, take many days to get your groceries, even if you are lucky enough to book a slot.
  • The meal delivery brands that are using the situation to put a financial squeeze on the local restaurants that consumers are trying to support through these tough times by ordering takeout food.

Apparently, it is lot harder than you might imagine for brands to be empathetic, to put the common interest before their own and make sacrifices.

However, the rules of crisis management have not changed.

Once trust is broken and your reputation is gone, it’s a long road to win back that trust.

Consumers and other stakeholders will remember who got it right – and who got it wrong.


The latest official national & international updates are available here:


RockDove created our COVID-19 Playbook, available on mobile devices via In Case of Crisis, to help organizations share their trusted information with employees and stakeholders during this unprecedented public health crisis.



Learn how hundreds of organizations large and small are using our award-winning crisis management platform, In Case of Crisis, so you can be better prepared and respond faster to emerging threats like Coronavirus.