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  • Gabriella H Axelson

Companies in the Spotlight of COVID19

The COVID19 pandemic has been around for a few months now, but it really hasn’t been until these last few weeks that the world had its wake up call for how serious this virus actually is. And the longer this quarantine goes on, the more everyone is impacted. We constantly see on the news about everyone being impacted and the different ways large and small business are handling this. And as someone who recently finished my master’s degree in public relations (with a focus on crisis communication), I think this is going to be a period that makes or breaks a company. So below will be a list of a few companies I think are doing a great job, and some that could use some work.

First on the list is Allbirds. Allbirds is a shoe company that, during this pandemic, has started a bundle deal where you buy a pair, and pay half the price of a second pair, and Allbirds will cover the reset to donate a pair to a healthcare worker. If you do not need or want a new pair of shoes, you can donate a specially priced pair instead. This simple promotion was, in my opinion, a brilliant way to not only keep the sales they probably need to pay their workers, but to give back to the community as well. Only thing they could make this even better? Maybe talk about what they are doing to protect their employees.

Nordstrom has a banner on the top of their website that links to detailed descriptions on what they are doing to protect their employees and customers. Providing easy access to this information is a great way to show their transparency and company beliefs. What makes this even greater is that Nordstrom has closed all of its locations as a way to protect their employees and customers. Yet one area for improvement could be detailing how they are helping their employees while they are not able to work.

Starbucks also has a banner on its home page that links to a description of what they are doing to help combat the pandemic. While Starbucks was great for giving back to the community (they’re giving front-line responders for COVID19 a free tall brewed coffee as well as donating $500,000 to support front-line responders), they are not completely transparent when it comes to what they are doing to protect their employees. While it does note that all locations will be strict drive-through and delivery only, I feel like they could do better about detailing how exactly they are protecting their employees.

Zoom was very quick to react to this pandemic by providing teachers easy access to continue teaching remotely. What was a brilliant response by the company, ended up lacking when the company did not respond to the growing worries about security and privacy. Finding information about privacy is a little bit of a struggle, with information not being easily found (at least not within the first few minutes). While they do have a blog post from March 29 detailing privacy policy, this post was not easily found, nor signed off by appropriate authority. I definitely feel like this is one of those situations where a press release was needed, and needed to be signed off by either the CEO or the head of privacy and security. Although Zoom did not necessarily handle this wrong, it could have been much stronger if they were a little more transparent.

I think it is also worth exploring if a company needs to talk about what they are doing during this pandemic. In many ways, I do think it is unnecessary to draw attention when this is something that is affecting everyone. For example, a clothing store that exists only online does not need to explain how they are protecting their customers. Yet, as I learned from the research I conducted for my masters dissertation, transparency is key during times like these. And while more information rarely makes a situation better (or makes a company more transparent), providing easy access to information about what the company is doing during the pandemic while help build trust from their customers. But of course, this pandemic is still in its early stages, and even when it ends, we will see a lot of repercussion for months, if not years to come. It is during this time, that I think we will see how companies response to the pandemic makes or breaks them.

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