Idris Elba, Tom Hanks, Naomi Campbell, Bill Gates Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP/Shutterstock, Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images, Brett D. Cove/ SplashNews / Splash News, RNewsFoto/Waggener Edstrom/AP Images What if we took our cues from British actor, Idris Elba, Oscar-winner Tom Hanks, Microsoft co-founder, Bill Gates, and supermodel, Naomi Campbell? Enter, my coronavirus rules of communication 2.0. First off,…
What if we took our cues from British actor, Idris Elba, Oscar-winner Tom Hanks, Microsoft co-founder, Bill Gates, and supermodel, Naomi Campbell?
Enter, my coronavirus rules of communication 2.0.
First off, you can have a sense of humor. Yes, you heard that correctly. Contrary to popular belief, at times of crisis, brands can indeed show a fun side.
Why is this important?
Because humor grabs our attention, relieves anxiety and tension, and it makes you more human and believable.
I loved how supermodel, Naomi Campbell, turned heads at LAX airport wearing a full hazmat suit and mask to travel. Posing for pictures, she captioned her Instagram post: “Safety First NEXT LEVEL.” While Naomi claimed it was the only way she felt comfortable traveling, leaders from brands and fashion labels, including Marc Jacobs, responded with rapturous applause.
Secondly, don’t wash your hands of the coronavirus conversation out of fear of being judged by others. If you have something to say, I think you should say it. Speaking up helps start a conversation and breaks the taboo.
As I’ve said before, over 70% of Gen Z wants to align with brands on a values level, which means they want to hear your perspective.
Celebrity power couple Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson were the first big celebrities to open the floodgates after they announced on Instagram that they were diagnosed with the virus during a trip to Australia. They could have remained silent, but they didn’t. Since then, the likes of Emily Ratajkowski, Orlando Bloom, and Charles Barkley have all publicly announced they are self-isolating as a precaution.
Thirdly, when I look at the coronavirus conversation on social media, it gives me valuable insight into how people are thinking about the pandemic, and how we need to use our platforms responsibly.
Idris Elba is a stellar example. He not only confirmed on Twitter that he had tested positive for coronavirus COVID-19 (and had no symptoms) but also spoke of the importance of social distancing, washing your hands, and looking out for each other in an otherwise divided world. On the other hand, a video falsely claiming Bill Gates created the coronavirus has gone viral on Instagram (and viewed more than 2.2 million times) and supported by celebrities like comedians Cedric the Entertainer and D.L. Hughley, and professional fighter Derrick Lewis. In times like this, we need to recognize that the truth and context matter more.
The coronavirus conversation shouldn’t just be one where people are conservative and serious.
That’s not human.
The truth is that people are crying and laughing, fearing an apocalypse and utterly fearless. They’re also creating memes, stocking up on toilet roll, and discovering apps like House Party to connect with their friends. Many are making the most of a bad situation. Still, others are feeling a range of emotions.
Do I think brands have a responsibility to communicate their messages effectively, to educate consumers, and protect their employees?
But make no mistake, I also think brands have an obligation to express themselves. To be vulnerable and original and authentic.
So, what are my final words of wisdom to you all?
If you really want to be “consumer-first,” ditch the old school rules and take your cue from the likes of Idris Elba, Tom Hanks, and Naomi Campbell. Communicate your message effectively, spread the right vibe, and build some loyalty in the process.
And most importantly, stay safe.
Jeetendr Sehdev is a media personality, international keynote speaker, and the author of the New York Times best-selling book, “The Kim Kardashian Principle: Why Shameless Sells (and How to Do It Right).” He was also named Esquire’s Influencer Of The Year. Twitter @jeetendrsehdev. Instagram @jeetendr_sehdev.