How acting ethically in a crisis can boost your brand

By Charlie Britten
16 Jun 2020

Firms do not just need to deal with the wider economic consequences of the Coronavirus crisis: They also need to be mindful that their response can have a longer-term impact on their fortunes.

It has been said that the Coronavirus crisis has shown up both the best and the worst in people.

While health service staff and ‘key workers’ - down to those carrying out unglamorous tasks such as working in supermarkets or emptying bins - have become heroes, others have emerged as villains, whether breaching lock-down rules, panic buying toilet rolls or spreading conspiracy theories blaming 5G mobile for the virus.

The same may be said of companies. The government’s furlough scheme has been a lifeline for many, helping them keep staff in jobs and save costs as revenues have plummeted. However, the attempts of some large firms to use it have drawn considerable ire.

This includes wealthy football clubs like Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur, both of whom reversed attempts to furlough staff after a public backlash. Tottenham have also endured bad publicity over incidents were players broke lockdown rules.

Others facing criticism have included Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson for saying his airline would have to lay off staff, with many arguing a fraction of his own personal wealth would cover their wages.

With the economy facing a recession of unprecedented depth - albeit with recovery likely to start fairly quickly as restrictions are lifted - consumers may remember the choices firms make and respond accordingly when they are able to resume spending.

Positive responses in Coronavirus

At the same time, the way some have acted has been outstanding. For example, in contrast with the criticism faced by Liverpool and Tottenham, Manchester United have had an exceptional performance in the crisis. A club that has had some very poor PR in recent years, the club has handled the situation well in a number of ways:

  •          Donating matchday food to local food banks
  •          Swiftly announcing it would not use the furlough scheme
  •          Waiving payments owed by small clubs elsewhere with worse cash problems, despite announcing a Coronavirus-related loss of at least £28 million
  •          Turning the stadium lights blue and only illuminating the words N, H and S on the club’s name
  •          One of the club’s players, Marcus Rashford, helped raise £20 million to help provide meals for children in deprived areas and has campaigned for free school meal provision to continue in the summer holidays


The club has been swift to use social media to publicise these actions, ensuring they gain good PR and positive interactions, helping improve a brand image that has often been compromised in recent years due to poor relations between fans and a board commonly viewed as more interested in lining their own pockets than investing in the team.

Of course, for firms with a strong commitment to doing the right thing or having a deeper purpose, such things should come naturally and this should be reflected in marketing.

How firms reacted to Black Lives Matter 

The pandemic has not been the only major issue that has prompted companies to act. The Black Lives Matter (BLM) campaign has been at the forefront of public attention in the wake of the death of a black man who was being restrained by police in the US.

An example of how social media can be used positively emerged in the UKwhen a far-right vlogger tweeted that she was glad Yorkshire Tea had not made any public statement in favour of BLM. Yorkshire Tea swiftly replied to make clear their sympathies for the movement and asked her not to buy their product again.

When she replied that she would now buy PG Tips, they joined the thread to tell her she wasn’t welcome buying their brand either, as they also supported BLM.

For Yorkshire Tea, this was a particularly positive move, after it had been forced to deny being politically partisan in February after the newly appointed chancellor Rishi Sunak was pictured posing next to the product, an action the firm had not been directly involved with.

Using social media well

A key benefit of good social media management is the capacity of firms to respond to major events. It may include taking a public stance on an issue; or using social media posts to highlight how they have handled a situation.

Good reputation management is a key tool for any company and it does not just matter when something happens that is specific to your firm, but also when there are big issues going on in the wider world.

How BeUniqueness can help your firm

At BeUniqueness, we have extensive knowledge of social media and understand the power of social media management to help your marketing.

Whether it is increasing engagement, reputation management or providing a new means of communication and customers service, social media can make a major difference to your business and we can help ensure you get the full benefit of it.

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