Leadership Strategy

A Task Force Leader’s Perspective


I was interviewing Marija Zivanovic-Smith, NCR’s SVP of Corporate Marketing, Communications, and Chief External Affairs Officer, on her role as task force leader for her firm. One of the key points she kept making was the importance of protecting the safety of employees, consumers, and of the company’s brand. I asked her to talk about the steps she was taking to mitigate damage. Below is her insight.

Mitigating Brand Damage Due to Covid-19

This is really complex. I will summarize it in a few categories.

1.      Clear Mission: First and foremost, we had a mission. The CEO/COO did a great job of defining a very clear mission: 1) employee safety, 2) customer safety, and 3) business continuity / brand safety.

2.      Mission-Driven Selfless People: Second, I can’t reinforce enough of the importance of having mission-driven, selfless employees who deeply cared. From HR, to the auditor, to government relations, to data, to finance—we had a very strong team. Everybody had to buy in for this to work.

3.      Fact-Based Decisions: Third, the approach itself mattered. In order to drive orderly transitions, we had to be fact based. We could not just decide on an emotion. It was critical that we picked out data sources and explained to our employees that we were basing decisions on expert views.

4.      Excellent Safety Process: Based on facts and insight from experts, the first priority was to establish a very good safety process for identifying, tracking, and containing cases. This allowed us to notify people quickly who might have been exposed and to manage this consistently. We’ve done that well from the beginning.

5.      Anticipate: In addition to answering the crisis of the day, we always made sure to anticipate what was coming next. In early March, before others decided to shut down, we took our 22,000 employees to a work-from-home environment. We maintained all systems with zero disruptions because our company is essential to keep commerce running. Before that, we were focused on procuring safety equipment.

6.      Constant Communication: The most important factor throughout the process was to build trust.

All along we had to mobilize every channel – email, social media, our .com, and global weekly webcast with CEO and COO. We published two internal hubs of content to provide resources on Covid-19 and employee wellness.  

In addition,  to meet our customer needs during this pandemic, we launched a resource hub on our site, The Primer.  It is a collection of customer stories about running a bank, a store or a restaurant. It spotlighted an NCR that is committed to helping our customers run a business during a pandemic, so that they can get time to think ahead and drive long lasting success., The Primer significantly increased traffic to the site.

7.      Re-entry Planning that Scales: Finally, we needed to think about re-entry. This is more complicated and presented many questions. What was enough to get us to go back to the office? Who decides? What are the criteria? What safety measures do you have to put in place? We have 69 different steps to keep our offices safe. We have piloted the process and deployed it across 30 locations. Command and control can only do so much; everything we created— we had to publish, train the field, and empower the local leaders.

Additional marketing leadership insight on Covid-19: Why Marketers Should Lead Crisis (Covid-19) Response and How to Manage a Crisis with No End

Join the Discussion: @KimWhitler



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