It’s not you it’s COVID-19

At this point in this pandemic there is not a single person on this planet who is not affected.  Think about that for a moment.

Every. Single. Person. On this Globe.

It’s almost impossible for the brain to comprehend. At least my brain. It’s still smoldering just thinking about it.

Whether you’re sick, you know someone who is sick, you’re working at home under government mandates, working at home to stay safe, not traveling, customers not calling you back… the list is endless.

We are truly all in this together.

Right now brands and businesses are in uncharted territory.  No one knows what to do.

How do we message to employees?

How do we talk to customers?

How do we talk to prospects?

And brands and businesses are asking themselves:

Why is no one calling me back?

Will the project we started continue?

What’s going to be our client relationship next week?

Will I ever get another client or customer?

Should I send a funny email? Heartfelt email? What should I do?

In times like this, the answer is often the one that we’ve had right in front of us all along.


Practicing empathy, allows us to put ourselves in others shoes and really understand what they may be going through. Whether you’re an individual, start-up, nationwide brand, or global powerhouse everyone is going through the same cycle.

It is important to understand what our employees and customers are going through and will be going through as a result of this pandemic. This will allow us to build strategies and communicate in a way that is both empathetic and effective.

Practicing empathy, allows us to put ourselves in others shoes and really understand what they may be going through.
- Marc Gutman

We are all going through different stages and emotions. Yet for just about every business and business buyer (as well as us as individuals) there are 5 stages we are most likely to experience.

This is a shared experience unlike any other… we all have so much in common right now.

Taking a moment to think what stage that client or decision maker is in at this time will help you to empathize with them first and then decide what type of communication is most appropriate.. And will be most effective.

The 5 stages your clients and customers are experiencing right now:

1) Crisis

Holy sh*t!  My world has just been upended. I’ve lost my job. My business has been shut down by government mandate. I can’t leave my house. This is the proverbial plugging holes in the dam… and another one sprouts.  See Vegas Vacation.

2) Survival

Alright, I have an understanding of what life might look like for then next 2-6 months.  How am I going to survive financially? Will I have a job? What’s happening to my savings?  What if I can’t pay rent? How will I continue to feed my family? See the middle seasons of The Walking Dead.

3) Heal (pick up the pieces)

I’m catching my breath.  Now what? Where do we go from here? What do I have to change or pivot in my business in this new reality? What new channels of revenue and customers are available to us? How do I repair my brand that may have been fractured?

4) Grow

Whew! We are on solid footing. How do we prosper, profit, and grow in this new world? Where do we invest? How do we continue to build a world-class team and move this business forward?

5) The Future

Remember all that fun big vision stuff we used to do?  Man I miss that. We’re read to look to the future and talk vision again. Has this crisis changed our long term vision and mission? Where do we fit in today’s world? We are answering questions like: Where did we come from? How did we get here? And where are we going?

Right now everyone is operating in crisis and survival. Know this. Honor this.  Feel this.

We are seeing record numbers of unemployment. Our family, friends, clients, prospects are reeling from the current job climate.

Customers are not finding branding jokes as cheeky or humorous. This McDonald’s example is proof of that.  Customers are saying, stop trying to be funny and do something!  We’re in crisis and survival right now! We are not in the heal phase yet Ronald!

When our clients and prospects are operating in these first two phases stop selling and start serving. Ask how to help. Pitch in.  Do some work pro bono. Solve problems.

Keep referring back to the 5 phases and then filter your internal and external messaging through this framework.  Understand this will get better, but until then have some empathy for your audience. They’ll appreciate it and be loyal to your brand on the other side of this crisis.

When you’re struggling to make sense of all this and it feels personal, remember it’s not you it’s COVID-19.

But also know, this 5 steps above are also a natural progression of where we’re going and where we’ll be again. One you understand where you and your customers are in this process you’ll know exactly what to say and when.

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