Coronavirus and other uncertainty? Heres my advice to help your agency prepare.
Coronavirus and other uncertainty? Here’s my advice to help your agency prepare.

Wondering what to do about coronavirus at your agency? No one knows for sure—but here’s what I’m thinking about in this time of uncertainty.

Early into my dating an epidemiologist, she randomly asked how I felt about cruises. I said I hadn’t been on a cruise before; it would depend on the details. She replied, “As a rule, epidemiologists avoid cruises.”

The relationship didn’t work out, but I thought of her comment amidst coronavirus (COVID-19).

How will coronavirus impact your agency? And what should do about it?

The exact approach is “it depends.” But here’s what I’m thinking about as an agency consultant…

How coronavirus might impact your agency… and what to do during the uncertainty

If you own or run an agency, I’d start by considering these 10 points.

1) Understand complex systems. If you haven’t yet, read the book Meltdown: Why Our Systems Fail and What to Do About It. The key premise is that complex systems are more likely to fail than simple systems, and tightly-coupled systems are more likely to fail than loosely-coupled systems. The world is a complex system, and things are increasingly tightly-coupled. Once you read the book, you’ll likely think about other implications closer to home.

2) Prepare for recession. I shared my advice on recession prep last year. Now more than ever, build your cash reserves, diversify your lead-gen, and prepare for worst-case scenarios.

3) Assume that employees and clients are distracted. On a visit to Portland, my Lyft driver said he emigrated from the Ukraine to escape the war there. He mentioned abandoning his small business in the Ukraine—because in wartime, business isn’t important; you only care about keeping your family safe. This isn’t war… but everyone’s priorities have shifted; productivity will likely drop.

4) Over-communicate to your employees. They’re worried about themselves and their families. No one’s 100% focused at work anyway… but that’s especially true during a crisis. They want to know that you care about how coronavirus impacts them and their jobs. What’s your plan if schools close and their kids are home 24/7? What if you lose big clients? You’re thinking about the “what ifs”; they are too, and they want to know what you’ve decided so far.

5) Over-communicate to your clients. Your clients aren’t focused on marketing, other than needing to get enough revenue in the door. Some clients are doing really well—like a client’s client that sells camping food. Other clients aren’t—like clients’ clients in the travel and tourism industry. And others aren’t sure yet, but know uncertainty is to come.

6) Prepare for physical isolation. This might be a country- or city-wide lockdown, quarantine during travel, or self-quarantine due to you or a family member being exposed. You may or may not be sick yourself. Have you stocked-up in a way that makes sense, without drifting into hoarding?

7) Pause off-brand advertising and marketing campaigns. For instance, the Alitalia “shop ’til you drop in Italy” advertising campaign seems more literal than figurative right now. Start by auditing what’s running and about to run, and make sure you stop anything that’s likely to be problematic.

8) Weigh whether travel and in-person events are worth it. As a co-organizer of FOMO Retreat in Alaska, we added a 100% refund guarantee… and then decided to postpone the event to 2021. I won’t be speaking at Traffic & Conversion Summit in April, because they’re postponing, too.

9) Support your community… but don’t rely on others to save you. This was an issue in aviation 50 years ago, where passengers would wait for the flight attendants to save them. But they crew might be incapacitated themselves; you need to save yourself.

10) Be careful about conspiracy theories and rumors. Some people are more inclined to believe conspiracy theories than others. Sometimes this is harmless, and other times not so much. You’ll have to weigh what’s right for you… but there implications to your choice of news sources.

Question: How are you seeing coronavirus (COVID-19) impact your agency?