Our president Jay Friedman shared with Ad Age how brands can recover and evolve after COVID-19 and grow and be stronger and better for all they serve. The key, he says, is going beyond shareholders and focusing returns on these three stakeholders to promote long-term recovery and sustainability. 1. Consumers When the pandemic swept through the United States, everything came to a stop; everything ultimately changed. That’s why now more than ever, how you communicate with customers and prospects is so important. Drop the tone-deaf hard-sell, “buy here, buy now” mantra. Instead, go with messaging that benefits the consumer, and make it suitable for the context in which it’s placed. Which brands are communicating well in the midst of COVID-19? Jay says Zillow and Hotels.com are good examples. Zillow gets to the heart of how we’re all feeling about our homes these days with its current tagline, “Now is the time you recognize how important your home is.” And Hotels.com pivoted well when it recently changed its tagline from “Be There. Do That. Get Rewarded.” to “Just Stay Home,” to promote social distancing efforts. Jay believes it’s the small, strategic changes, such as adjusting your messaging, that show consumers you’re listening, and you care. 2. Partners The Incorporated Society of British Advertisers’ (ISBA’s) recent study on the programmatic supply chain outlines stark truths about the levels of waste in the ad tech ecosystem. This report among others and even a situation like COVID-19 can help pave the way for the ad tech industry to change in a positive way – to actively work to reduce waste and ad fraud and improve attribution and return. But Jay emphasizes that all this work to change for the better shouldn’t fall squarely on the ad tech side alone. Brands also need to do their part. To start, he suggests adjusting your definition of performance, which means ending counterproductive practices to boost “performance” numbers (including double-counting conversions from multiple sources); aggressively rooting out fraud; and focusing on price more than value. Jay recommends working with trusted partners to determine meaningful KPIs, increasing transparency and reducing waste. 3. Employees At a time when brands are doing wage reductions and furloughs instead of permanent layoffs to weather COVID-19, Jay says company culture and employee value are important elements to continue building now and into the future once the pandemic ends. Keep morale high and engage and encourage employees, and commend them for the work they’re doing and their accomplishments during these trying times. Amazon and Twitter are two companies that have made big investments in their corporate culture and great strides in how they treat employees as of late, emphasizing both safety and work-life balance. Amazon has established the Amazon Relief Fund and is filling new jobs, investing in more COVID-19 safety measures and increasing employee pay. And Twitter recently announced some of its employees can work from home forever, which represents a major turning point when it comes to the corporate world’s standing on flexible work environments. The path and steps you take now are vital to how you ultimately move forward from this pivotal moment in time. Jay says how brands can recover and evolve after COVID-19 comes down to focusing on consumers, partners and employees and helping them be at their best. When you do that, you’ll find that right path and take those right steps to succeed and know you’ll be in the right position to grasp the future now.