Going Alone or Going Together: Fear vs Hope-Based Marketing Strategies

Lately, as we connect with our marketing partners, we’ve replaced the usual “how you doin’?-good-okay” at the start of each call with a time of active listening. 

As we provide our ears as sounding boards, we’ve noticed the surfacing patterns of very real fears and very powerful hopes.

We fault no one for their fears during uncertain times, but be cautious that you aren’t enacting short-sited strategies based on them.

Fear Sells Today, But Ignores Tomorrow

As marketers, we are acutely aware of what a prominent role fear can play in decision making, as it is one of the top emotions that drive a customer’s decision to either consume or avoid. And it gets over used.

It is the hammer many marketers use to smash all the other tools in their tool box. Fear may sell today, but it doesn’t build a very good tomorrow.

Just look at most political ads… many lift not a finger to inform audiences about policies or inspire positive change, but only foment action or in-action based on fear. The informed voter pays them no mind.

An Invitation To Be a Better Brand

In this time of unique crisis, we are noticing something different: brands leading the way with hopeful, encouraging messaging and even remarkable acts of generosity.

These acts are emanating from both smaller and bigger brands – even some that we normally wouldn’t harbor much empathy for…

  • Verizon: free long distance, discounts, waiving fees and increasing shipping speed. Now just please restore Net Neutrality.
  • xfinity: issuing $22 credits – every little bit helps.
  • New York Times: allowing free access to coronavirus coverage

The most encouraging and inspiring message I found in my inbox this morning wasn’t a note from my mother (who is a saint, btw), but it was from PayPal’s CEO. PayPal?!

“Many businesses today are stepping up to help, because no one business can do it alone. We’re calling on companies across the financial ecosystem, to come together to help the most vulnerable during this crisis. We all need to support our employees and look for ways to help our customers navigate these waters. In the last few months, we’ve seen generosity and kindness, intergenerational support and solidarity, and remarkable fortitude. It is during times like these that courage and generosity and resilience make a difference.”

Dan Schulman, PayPal President and CEO

Then he says this, setting apart these words in their own paragraph for emphasis, “We are here to help our customers.”

Now, I haven’t used PayPal in years, not since its business associate eBay essentially became a thesaurus for the term “hidden fees”, but their stock just went up in my eyes.

The brands that differentiate themselves by being generous and who provide relevant support, encouragement and relief to their audiences through the dark days ahead will emerge stronger and brighter when the sun shines again.

Beacons of Reassurance

There is a call out there now, louder than ever, and it is not to abandon hope, but to embrace it. It is a call to use your marketing as a beacon of reassurance in turbulent times.

Our agency partners with a clutch of amazing credit unions throughout the United States.

We feel honored to support their marketing teams during this time as we know that these member-owned financial institutions will play significant roles in the economic support and recovery of their local communities.

The subject line of a recent email from one CU summed up everything their members and potential members need to hear right now: “Financially impacted by COVID-19? We’ve got your back.”

Fear-based vs Hope-Based Marketing Strategies

There are two routes a brand can take to get the other side of this pandemic:

  1. The Insular Route: fear-based, protect what’s mine, others are out to get me
  2. The (We’re-In-This) Together Route: hope-based, generous, encouraging common security

The Insular Route takes a “me first” approach that fails to look at the horizon beyond today.

Brands that take this route often fail to adapt their messaging, products and services to new realities. They seek instead to simply maintain.

In a sense, they will persist in their own fear-induced denial. They are inclined to shrink their presence for fear that being bold simply means having more mouths to feed.

Contrast this with brands who pro-actively resolve to travel the We’re-In-This-Together Route.

These are the brands who offer life boats to their current customers and provide space aboard to pull others out of the water with products, services and kindness that meets them where they’re at.

The brands that differentiate themselves by being generous and who provide relevant support, encouragement and relief to their audiences through the dark days ahead will emerge stronger and brighter when the sun shines again.

This is a key moment in history where brands have the opportunity to differentiate themselves and not only stand apart, but stand beside their key constituents which will, in the end, make them stand above the rest.

Scrappy Optimism Fuels Adaptation

We also understand that not all businesses will have the footing right now to pull others aboard their proverbial life rafts. But that is not to say that they aren’t still able to take the Together Route by adapting.

Kimberly Bell-Jessop of Nil Organic Tea makes some of the best teas you will find anywhere.

Heck, she made a tea drinker out of this ardent coffee consumer the first time she let me sample her Coastal Coconut blend a few years ago.

I used to find her teas at the Portland Saturday Market where she says the majority of her revenue originated from in-person sales.…and hope to find them there one day again soon.

Kimberly was refreshingly transparent when she reached out to her audience via email about how her family are adjusting their lives and business.

She began with gratitude, then expressed her uncertainty (something that unites us all at the moment) and then invited her audience (current and former customers) to join her as she adapts her business to focus online instead of in-person.

“We are excited about the creativity that is to come with shifting our focus online, and honestly hopeful that we will be okay, but to say we need your help is an understatement.”

Kimberly Bell-Jessop, Owner/Founder of Nil Organic Tea

In that one short paragraph, she perfectly describes the scrappy optimism and need for community that is inherent when a small business chooses a hope-based marketing strategy.

Paralyzing Fear and Blind Optimism Be Damned. Hope Is What We’re After.

Renowned philosopher and psychologist Erich Fromm, a German Jew living in the era of Nazis, provides us with a wonderful description for reviving and adapting our messaging – for being scrappy optimists. 

“Hope is a decisive element in any attempt to bring about social change in the direction of greater aliveness, awareness, and reason.”

Erich Fromm, The Revolution of Hope

If you ask the team at Edge, hope is the higher route that we take together – and the one we’ll always recommended to our partners big or small. 

Besides, the view of the other side is almost always better up here.

And with that…I think I’ll go have a cup of tea.

One more quick note…Edge has been a work-from-home company for almost two decades. We’ve assembled some of our favorite tips and commiserations in the posts below.

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Make Work from Home Work for You

Here at Edge, a virtual office space has been part of our day-to-day landscape for almost 20 years. As social distancing becomes the new normal, working from home is becoming an option (or requirement) for many folks.

And we understand all too well the challenges of conquering your work day from home. So we’ve gathered some tips directly from our team about how they stay connected and productive while working at home.

Our Top Work-from-Home Tips

1) Create your own space

However you can, set aside someplace where you can get into “work-mode,” even if it’s just a corner of a room someplace.

Gavin Heslop: Ideally, you’ll be able to find a space to help alleviate new distractions you will face when working from home. Working from a high-traffic area makes you susceptible to being distracted by others’ activities.

A designated workspace can also allow you to signal to others that you are at work: a closed door, or the use of headphones, perhaps.

For meetings, you’ll want to ensure that your space is quiet enough to be able to hear your colleagues, but more importantly that you are the only one in your space that they can hear.

Austi Baudro: When I began at Edge, I didn’t have an actual office. I typically would work downstairs on an over-cluttered desk filled with art projects and messy papers.

Having a dedicated workspace was essential to my productivity. My husband and I ended up renovating the room across the hall. Now, it’s MY office where I can close the door and get some serious work done uninterrupted.

Stephanie Chadwick: Working from home is not for everyone. It works best to have a space with a door that you can close.

Over the past almost 20 years that we’ve been in business, our work-from-home situation has varied greatly. At one point, we had newborn twins in the house and a barrage of grandparent and nanny helpers coming and going.

During this time, I would have important conference calls with CEOs, CMOs, COOs (you get the picture). I used our master bedroom closet, the quietest room in the house, to make this work. Clothing is a natural noise insulator – and on the plus side, instead of doodling on a memo pad, I could organize my shoes.

Granted, I wasn’t permanently parked in my closet, though for some, that space could convert really well.

2) Set a schedule

As much as you hated that daily commute, it gave you some time to separate work time from home time. Find a way to signal to yourself (and everyone you share living space with) that you’re done for the day.

Zack Stack: I’ve worked from home for almost two decades now. I love it, but switching from professional Zack to Dad and/or Husband Zack can be a bit jarring.

For me, buffer activities between work and home help me flip that switch in my head that tells me work is done for the day. These buffers often consist of gardening, biking, taking a walk or a run, or just heading to the park to shoot some hoops. All way better than sitting in a car.

When I return to my home I usually find I’ve left my work day behind me and I’m more present for my family.

Jennifer Hall: My family has always been so gracious with my work from home set-up and respecting the time that I am working, but it is equally important to be sure I adhere to a “close of the business day” time.

I can easily work late into the evening if we have no plans but that is not healthy to a good work/life balance. Being aware of when the workday should end, helps my family to know when they can expect me to begin transitioning from working women to mom and wife.

3) Have a Familiar Routine

Monday morning isn’t Saturday morning. As much as possible, make sure a work day feels like it should.

Zack Stack: This might sound like the anti-work-from-home suggestion, but get dressed for work, or at least pretend like it’s always casual Friday.

People always say, “Oh, it’s great working in the semi-permanent, pants-optional home environment.” But I’d hate for my boss to show up at my door one day to find me in sweatpants, Crocs, and my Hillsboro Hops T-shirts from four seasons ago and think I’ve given up on both work and life.

Austi Baudro: Set a lunch time. I’ve found that setting a specific lunchtime helps me to stay productive in those afternoons where sometimes it is hard to focus. Sometimes, I’ll make a lighter early lunch and then take a walk to help clear the brain fog.

Stephanie Chadwick: Have a clear picture of where you’re going to start the next day before “signing off” for the night. I find that 15 minutes of prep before I shut my laptop for the day helps me jump in quicker the next day.

4) Get Outside

Granted, we’re all at home now because we’re trying not to spread disease. But nobody can stare at a screen all day.

Jennifer Hall: To avoid the feeling of being shut-in, it’s important to physically get up from your desk or to walk away from your workspace and to literally come up for air – fresh outdoor air.

Use your breaks to tend to your garden, walk the dog, or take a stroll. Getting outside, whether for 2 or 10 minutes at least twice a day, has proven to boost productivity, sharpen mental focus, relieve stress, and in general promotes a positive attitude.

5) Communicate early and often

Working remotely means you’re not going to be seeing colleagues at the coffee station or parking lot. Make a concerted effort to check in daily (or more).

Zack Stack: One of the biggest challenges we’ve found for employees transitioning to a work-from-home environment from a shared office is social isolation. This has proven especially true for younger employees who may live alone and crave interpersonal connections.

When you spend the day working by yourself it’s even more important to reach out to others during and at the end of your day.

Also, when you’re relying on text messaging programs for a majority of your comms, don’t forget that voice is sometimes the better medium. When it would take a novel to describe something, when you’re planning creative, or as soon as you see your tone being misconstrued. That’s when you know it’s time to “go audio” as we say.

Austi Baudro: Every Monday, I send out a list to our team to set the top priorities of the week. It not only helps our team, but it helps me to list out my own priorities. Sometimes I will even number these in order of importance to make sure they are completed at the appropriate time.

Stephanie Chadwick: Talking via audio instead of wholly relying on Slack helps you feel and stay connected more personally with those on the other end of the line. Adding video to the mix when possible helps increase the humanity factor as well.

Tools of the Trade

Matt Neznanski: At Edge, we use a range of platforms to stay in contact, share ideas, and work together. There are many options, but here’s a breakdown of some of our faves.

1) Collaboration and Communication

Everyone’s got email. We like Gmail and the Google Suite because files can be collaborated on in real-time and everything works well together.

We’ve always got Slack open for team updates, questions, and water cooler chat. If, in the office, you’d just walk over to someone’s desk for something, use Slack instead of email.

We also host internal meetings in Slack, using their in-app calling. We don’t always use video for those, but it’s available.

We couldn’t get by without Asana, a work management platform that keeps our projects outlined, tasks sorted, and task-related communications in one place.

2) Meeting notes, project documents, lists

Collaborative documents in Google Drive (which allow for simultaneous real-time changes) are a huge benefit when you need to work together and have a single source of truth for a document as well.

Be done with multiple versions of docs hanging around! (This is a solid move even when you’re all back in the office.)

3) External meetings

For meetings with people outside the Edge team, we use Zoom. We like how stable the system is and how simple it is to share screens.

4) File sharing and screencasts

We’re big fans of Droplr for sending big files, annotating screenshots, or capturing video of our screens for troubleshooting, training, and more.

We're calling this "controlling what you can when things feel out of control."

Balancing Work and Kids

Even our home-office day-to-day is turned upside down now that our kids are out of school and daycare. Here’s what we’re doing to cope with that.

1) Schedule blocks of time

Austi Baudro: Now that my boys (ages 7 and 2) are home with me, I have to schedule blocks of time to go outside or play with play dough or get out those magnet blocks that put good ‘ol Lincoln Logs to shame.

Now, my day looks more like 30-minute blocks of work time and 30 minutes of play.

Realistically, I have my laptop and phone in hand at all times.

Talk with your co-workers and communicate when you will be unavailable. Try to limit calls during these times or schedule them when you know you have extra help.

2) Schedule their time

Matt Neznanski: The one thing I always forget about my kids (ages 6 and 3) is how structured school and daycare is.

Blocking out free play, academics/art, and quiet time is huge for us to combat boredom.

I blame the schedule, too: “Schedule says it’s quiet time. Who am I to argue?”

Also, I’m amazed at how often they eat. Never mind the toilet paper, we’re stocked up with crackers, dried fruit, and cereal.

For a much more in-depth discussion of balancing a house full of people with full-time work for years, check out this great post about establishing a more flexible work-from-home life with kids from Edge partner Stephanie Chadwick.

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One Mom’s Flexible Approach To Working from Home with Kids

Make More Room For The Life Part of Your Work-Life Balance

At Edge, we put family first. We have incredible flexibility and are so grateful for the opportunity to approach work-life balance in this way.

What this means to me in the day-to-day of working from home is that we’ve had to develop a more flexible or fluid approach to our work-life balance.

One of the primary reasons we started Edge was so that we could work from home and have a lifestyle that supported family.

Changing pace to make room for real life

In my previous career, I saw my stressed-out friends trying to pass their sick kids through to daycare so that they didn’t miss work at their office.

For one newly-minted dad on parental leave, I saw my boss dramatically exclaim, “Is he EVER coming back to work?!”

We had yet to start a family, but I saw a pretty clear picture of what life would be like with a one-hour commute each way and the pressure mounting to not put family first.

What is a flexible work-life approach?

A flexible work-life approach might mean I start the workday earlier and end it later, often putting a few hours in before kids are awake in the morning and after the kids are asleep at night.

This allows for the normal “disruptions” I encounter everyday with kid-related interruptions, errands, refereeing and the like.

This is just one approach and it might not be for every family, but for ours it has kept this work-from-home family going strong for 20 years.

8 Tips for building more flexibility into your work life

1) Get an early and consistent start

Get up at the same time every day. At our house, we call this hour: Early-Dark-30, but you might call it 6am.

2) Their Nap Time Is Your Work Time

If you have young children, take advantage of their nap time to work. Save the tasks that require more concentrated brain power for this time.

But…have a back up plan because, as every parent knows, nap time is not guaranteed.

3) Take Meaningful Breaks

Give yourself permission to take meaningful breaks and engage with your kids in short spurts, because losing productivity and creative focus to guilt is real.

15-30 minutes of intentional time is better than the 15-30 minutes you’ll waste telling them to stop interrupting you. They will be more content and you will be more productive.

4) Make “Sign Off” or “Start Up” Notes

Have a clear picture of where you’re going to start the next day before “signing off” for the night.

Leave a “start up” note or an ordered task list on your desk.

I find that 15 minutes of prep before I shut my laptop for the day helps me jump in quicker the next day.

It can also help you rest at night. Now you can clear your mind as your fall asleep rather than run through a restless checklist.

5) Hold Walking Meetings

I would do this with my husband every day at 10:30 a.m. We’d walk a mile with our dog and talk business.

Now, I can walk on the treadmill and do a conference call or watch a training video while also getting some exercise. So many good ideas and solutions come when I take my mind off a problem and instead take it for a walk.

I know one team member uses exercise as a sort of punctuation. Between tasks he’ll do push ups, jumping jacks or just walk around his property a few times.

Take advantage of the fact that your co-workers can’t see you doing crunches to celebrate that epic email campaign you just launched.

6) Beds Are For Two Things

I’ll let you imagine what those two things are, but working isn’t one of them. Don’t steal your rest and confuse your body by treating your bed as a lay-to-sit desk.

Instead, as stated above, set your office times and have a designated space where you can concentrate and signal to yourself and everyone else in your home that it’s (quite literally) business time.

7) Make Your Home Office Smarter

Make your home smart and have it do some work for you. Our home has smart switches, lights, Alexa and security cameras in key areas so that we can monitor what’s going on from our desks.

We set up routines with these smart home features to help our kids stay on track during key tipping points: wake up, nap and bedtime.

We can also drop in on our kids’ rooms or make household announcements intercom-style.

8) Let Your Kids Lead

Get your kids engaged in activities that don’t involve you leading them.

We used educational TV programs and apps such as MEL Science, KiwiCrates and Let’s Make Art subscriptions (depending on age).

For older kids, have them make their own daily schedules. This way they can’t blame you if they get bored.

9) Play Parental Tag

Coordinate with your partner when you have an important meeting that takes you out of your home office – or a conference call that requires quiet and concentration.

Don’t be afraid to conduct important calls from the quietest room in your home, even if it’s the master bedroom closet or, as I rebranded mine, the Executive TeleCloset.

When both parents work from home, you can toss the “main parental control” back and forth as needed.

Scheduling work and family – a real life example

There is no doubt that having young children (4 and under) at home is difficult if you’re also trying to work from home and do not have childcare available.

For two working adults, dividing time between the two of you and stretching your 8-hour workday over 12 hours (or more) has worked for our family. Having a laptop is essential.

Here’s an example multi-tasking schedule that’s worked for us:

6 – 8 a.m.Work2 hours worked
8 – 10 a.m.Get kids up, fed and engaged in an activity (during this time, laptop is out and you’re multitasking with emails and research)45 minutes worked
10 a.m. – 12 p.m.Active playtime, inside or out for the kids. Work from your laptop while you supervise them. Then transition to an educational TV program for the kids.1 hour worked
12 – 2 p.m.Prep lunch, serve, clean up – send the kids to their rooms for quiet activities before naptime – or reading/rest time.1 hour worked
3 – 4:30 p.m.Reading/rest time ends, time for 90 minutes of fun TV and a snack – this is a great time to put on a movie and get yourself back to more focused work1 hour 30 minutes worked
4:30 – 6 p.m.Get the kids doing some chores and start your own early dinner prep – multitask while fixing dinner – answer or draft a few emails.30 minutes worked
6 – 8 p.m.Eat dinner and enjoy some family time and playtime. Avoid TV, prep for the next day (dishes, clean up, baths, etc). We typically do not watch TV during the workweek because our kids get enough screen time during the day when we are working.
8 – 9:30 p.m.All our kids are in their rooms. Youngest watch a short PBS show for 20 minutes with lights out at 8:30, older kids read in their rooms with lights out at 9. This is an opportunity to do one last hour or so at work.1 hour 15 minutes worked

There’s your 8-hour flex family work day spread across 15 and a half hours.

During times of peak projects and deadlines, those evening hours can stretch on to midnight.

Not saying it’s always easy, but doable: yes. Worth it? For sure.

And remember, building in more meaningful breaks can help incorporate rest into your day to help you go the distance…even if you never step out the door.

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