Business branding in 2021 will be as important as ever. Here are a few ways to approach it.

Whether you’re a small business owner, an executive for a mid-to-large-sized company, or a freelance entrepreneur looking for new opportunities, 2020 was a turbulent year. While not all businesses suffered losses as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, many did, and even those that did not have been forced to appraise their operations and plan for cutbacks.

Branding, as you well know, is a central task in business growth. During the pandemic, you’ve seen companies of all sizes forced to tailor their brand story in response to the health crises, economic impact, lockdown and quarantine measures, and even managing their workforces. Virtually any major company website you visit right now will feature a branded Covid-19 action plan front and center.

As we move into 2021, business branding will remain tricky and yet just as important as ever. Here are a few ways to approach it in this unprecedented environment:

Outsource to a PR firm

Public relations is, of course, a major part of branding. How you interface with the public ties directly into your brand story. For this reason, many companies hire a 3rd party firm to handle their PR. During a pandemic, brand awareness remains critical but also uniquely challenging. Utilizing the guidance of a nutrition, wellness, or lifestyle PR agency can allow you to synchronize your public messaging and tap influencer marketing.

PR agencies typically offer the following services: strategy development, messaging, media relations, content marketing, social media marketing, events/experiential marketing, and influencer relations. Each one of these is important. Together they form a comprehensive blueprint for brand growth.

No matter how solid your in-house PR or marketing team may be, there’s no substitute for an experienced PR firm. It’s not a sign of weakness to outsource; it’s actually a sign you possess strategic awareness and the raw potential for long-term growth.

Create new portals and platforms for virtual business

There’s pretty much no doubt that the pandemic is going to continue well into 2021. This means that it will continue to be important for your company to offer customers and clients virtual services.

Are you selling products? Make sure your sales portal is flawless and that you offer contactless delivery. Are you taking on new clients? Make sure you can interface with them remotely. There’s simply no reason to expect potential clients to risk their well-being for an in-person meeting during a deadly pandemic. Are you onboarding new employees or contractors? Either purchase a business plan for the use of premium virtual conferencing tools like Zoom or Skype or develop an in-house system using Slack or even a proprietary system.

Allowing employees and contractors to work remotely is a great brand move and just common decency. Highlighting a comprehensive strategy for virtual engagement is a must-have brand strategy for 2021.

Offer your employees healthcare

Healthcare has become a highly contentious and politicized issue in recent years but the simple fact is companies that offer their employees solid healthcare plans have higher retention rates and stronger company loyalty. In fact, a great number of people stay with their employers specifically because of the healthcare benefits they get.

During a pandemic, healthcare is most people’s number 1 priority. If you expect your employees to stick around with you for the long haul, give them healthcare. Even if you have to furlough some of your employees, try to continue extending healthcare plans to them until they return.

How does this pertain to branding? Simple. How your employees perceive you is eventually how the public will see you. How companies take care of their employees during the pandemic is perhaps one of the most visible signs of effective branding.

2020 was a buzzsaw of a year for branding. There were basically the companies who failed to respond effectively to the pandemic and those that prioritized their response to the biggest health crisis in a century.

2021 is likely to be just as challenging. Even if Covid-19 is brought under control, the economic and health impact will be ongoing. How your company responds to it will shape your brand for years, possibly decades to come.