The last article I wrote for this column was published on the eve of Southern Exposure when we were all together celebrating our industry. I talked about evolving your marketing strategy beyond what you’ve always been doing and encouraged you to take risks, inspire, and use your brand to give back. My closing words were, “As we look ahead to the spring and summer seasons when produce departments shine most brightly…”
Wow. Little did I know how brightly we would shine and how much we would pull together amid a time in our lives that none of us could imagine. How little did we all know how our personal and professional lives would be turned upside down.
While we may not be out of the crisis yet, I think we have at least been able to take a deep breath and start to form a new normal. While I do believe that at some point we will all get back to the way we were in some degree, I think it is important to learn, remember, and implement some of these new communicating techniques with each other and our customers.
Have you noticed that every conference call has now turned into a video chat? I have to admit I am loving this new method of communicating. First, I feel like our time is used so much more effectively. What used to be an hour-long conference call is getting done in 35 minutes. We are all less likely to wander into our inbox or read that article that is pulled up on our web browser. Our attention is focused on the people in front of us and meetings are becoming efficient and productive.
More importantly though, I love the authenticity that this medium has given us. It makes me smile when a cat randomly walks across a keyboard or a curious pup pokes his head up to see what’s going on. And I love the kids that are trying so hard to explain the “emergency” in the living room in a “whispered” tones. I am feeling more and more connected with my colleagues. I love seeing everyone in their homes and knowing that I am not the only one who has had to put a “Do not disturb unless you are on fire” sign on her home office door.
It is making us more open and vulnerable with each other and as Brene Brown says, “Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change.”
At Produce for Kids, we did a complete 180 with our messaging once stay-at-home orders started to wave across the country. It was so important to us, and to our consumers, that we remained useful and authentic. It didn’t make sense to continue to talk about fun spring break recipes or cute Easter hunt ideas. We had to provide content that was relevant, helpful, and useful. We could not be tone deaf to what our consumers were going through.
As a brand, it is important that you are flexible with your messaging. Don’t be so tied to your marketing calendar that you can’t adjust your voice and your content. Don’t be irrelevant. Keep up with current trends and pay attention to conversations your consumers are having. Communicate information that will help make their lives easier.
What does a brand do when there aren’t customers in the store to see their packaging or sign? Digital, digital, digital. For those of you who still are fighting against the digital space, I truly hope the last several months has you looking for some to run your website and social channels. It is where your customers are.
Inspire, engage, and create useful content that will highlight your items. Tell your story. Show them where their food comes from and ensure them that they can trust you to bring them safe, reliable, and delicious fruits and vegetables — pandemic or no pandemic.
Social isn’t just for B2C. LinkedIn has become the platform to share stories, articles, and inspiration to all of those on the front lines, behind the scenes, and trying to juggle home and work in the same space. It is where you can still connect with everyone in the industry while we are all grounded.
I don’t know when we will all be able to shake each other’s hand on a trade show floor again. However, while these times may be temporary, let’s not leave everything we’ve learned in the dust.
BY TRISH JAMES