The sudden shutdown of businesses, schools and much of normal day-to-day life has brought about a new normal for professionals across Pennsylvania and much of the nation.
With such a quick change in the way things are done, many compare what business and life was like as “B.C” Before Corona, and “A.C.” After Corona.
Work and life are definitely different, but for many the work must go on even if it’s changed dramatically or being handled remotely. Lehigh Valley Business reached out to some our business leaders to see how they’re doing.
Marketing exec says communication more important than ever
Marketing and advertising agencies are more vital than ever during the shutdown as businesses try to maintain contact with their customers, employees and other stakeholders.
Lehigh Valley Business spoke with James Klunk of Klunk & Millan Advertising in South Whitehall Township about life in an advertising office A.C.
LVB: Things aren’t “business as usual” anywhere. How has your firm been maintaining operations during the shutdown?
Klunk: Similar to many professional services businesses across the world, all of our employees are working remotely. Fortunately, with remote systems already in place, we were positioned to make the transition to a work from home scenario seamlessly and our business is running at full capacity.
The way we interact with each other, our clients, and our vendors has evolved rapidly — we’re now relying more on video conferencing through Zoom and Google Hangouts, and chat through Slack.
LVB: Have the needs and demands of your customers changed?
Klunk: Our customer base is very diverse, ranging from healthcare to medical devices to attractions to financial institutions. As a result, each client’s needs and demands are shifting in different ways.
For our healthcare and medical devices clients, there is an increased need for communication to the public and to healthcare professionals whereas other clients are pausing marketing activities due to state-mandated closures.
LVB: What kind of projects are you concentrating on right now?
Klunk: Our team is working closely with area healthcare providers to develop media strategies and plans to deliver COVID-19 messages across northeast Pennsylvania.
Additionally, our team is adapting existing campaign messages to ensure appropriate messaging, tone, creative elements as the public health crisis evolves. For example, we are adapting creative to no longer highlight visuals with large groups of people.
In fact, our digital teams are busier than ever as reliance on digital communication channels is increasing exponentially.
Many other brands we work with are choosing to focus on the light at the end of the tunnel—when things get better, and they will. So we’re continuing to work on brand-building campaigns, product launches, corporate strategy, etc.
LVB: Do you try to keep some sort of consistent message in your communications on COVID-19 and how it’s impacting everyone?
Klunk: Consistent and transparent messaging is critical to provide leadership in these uncertain times.
Because COVID-19 has changed our lives in so many ways, brands should reassess their messaging, tone, creative elements, and marketing mix to respond to this crisis and consumers’ evolving needs and concerns. Our team is constantly evaluating and providing recommendations for our clients’ in-market and upcoming campaigns.
LVB: What do you think is the most important message for businesses to convey to their staff, stakeholders and customers?
Klunk: In these unprecedented times, it is more important than ever to let clients, staff and stakeholders know where the business stands. Provide reassurance, but above all else be honest and transparent. It is ok not to have all the answers right now, none of us do.
It’s also important let staff, stakeholders and customers know that you’re there for them—both personally and professionally. Something as simple as reaching out and checking in goes a long way, especially as many of us are socially distanced.
While brands should continue to invest, they must avoid being seen as opportunistic. Instead, now’s an opportunity for brands to let their culture and values shine through. Finding ways to empathize and provide solutions to help their customers and communities navigate through these unprecedented times will help enhance brand perceptions—it’s also the right thing to do.
LVB: What are some important lessons your industry and others can take away from how we are operating during the current pandemic?
Klunk: Now more than ever, smart, data-driven marketing can help companies and businesses either mitigate risk or capture the upside. Be disciplined, but ready to pivot and adapt. The need to adjust marketing plans, creative elements, websites, etc. will continue. What is appropriate today, may need to change tomorrow.
VOIP provider helping workplaces get, stay connected
With in-person communication being avoided during the coronavirus shutdown, companies that provide VOIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) are in more demand than ever.
John Chisca of Vox Tandem in Macungie, a company that provides support for 3CX systems, said his phone started ringing the day he got back from a Disney vacation with his family March 15 and hasn’t stopped.
“Everybody’s working from home, or everybody’s trying to,” he said.
Unfortunately, many of the small and medium sized businesses in the region weren’t quite ready for the world of virtual meetings.
To help, he’s been offering free consulting to small businesses that have had trouble getting their systems up and running in the A.C. (After Corona) world.
“We’re trying to see how we can help,” he said. “The bottom line is, it’s not a very costly product for us. A lot of people are worried. We’re talking to them about what their fears are and how we can help. If we can help them feel a little normalized that’s good.”
While some small businesses needed help getting started with phone and video connectivity, others simply didn’t know the capabilities they had.
He said, for example, they offer support for 3CX, systems, but many of their customers had just been using those systems for phone service.
“They didn’t know their account had video conferencing capabilities already or an iPhone app they could use,” he said.
And while he’s busy, Chisca said he knows the work his company is doing is helping small businesses stay afloat and stay safe during the shutdown, and he thinks those companies will come out the other side in better technological shape.
Shutdown caught many unprepared
Scott Gingold’s firm, Lehigh Valley Technology Co., has been offering professional tech support at no cost to help small businesses and nonprofits stay connected and keep them operating remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The company is also offering remote access technology tools at cost to those companies that need them.
Gingold, president of the company, said more than 67 percent of their clients are considered life-sustaining businesses, including nursing homes and emergency medical services units, so he has his staff on a rotating schedule so that help is available 24 hours a day for those companies that need it.
Many of the concerns have been what one would expect. People learning new technology and adapting or connectivity issues.
“But the common theme is that many were not prepared for this. They may have been prepared for a snow day or two, but not something long-term like this,” he said.
And, even if they thought they were prepared, many companies had remote work platforms that hadn’t been tested and weren’t working optimally.
Another major problem he’s encountered is companies relying on employees to use their own devices, personal computers or laptops, which are sometime not the right fit.
The device or the operating system can be out of date making it difficult for the employees to connect with the work system.
In other cases, he said, he’s found the office’s computer system wasn’t up to the task of adapting to the many remote connections.
He’s hoping the one good thing that may come out of offices learning to operate in the A.C world is that they take a closer look at the technology they use so they’re better prepared for any future emergencies.
“People are going to think differently,” he said. “You can’t just keep relying on duct tape and bubble gum to keep your system running. You’ve got to invest in technology.”