It was Friday the 13th.
For the marketing, communications and digital teams at BDO, the date was fitting. On that mid-March day, it felt like everything was changing dramatically – and not for the better. The full magnitude of the coronavirus (COVID-19) was becoming apparent.
“When you look back at the timeline, that’s really when things got serious,” said Andrea Platt, the Social Media Manager at the leading accounting, tax, and advisory firm. “People were starting to be told to work from home. Sports leagues were shutting down.”
BDO responded to the crisis by considering all aspects of communications within the firm, with clients, and with the broader market. BDO has always focused on being a calm, clear voice on complex topics and issues, and the importance of this approach was underscored during this crisis. In determining their market-facing response to the growing pandemic, BDO made a decision to help ensure their message was relevant and appropriate for this sensitive time.
They hit the pause button on their external communications and turned off the content pipeline.
“We wanted to think through if the content we had prepared was right for this new operating environment,” said Lydia Humenycky, Senior Manager, Brand Communications and Content Strategy. “Are our clients and contacts going to be receptive to hearing a message that had been planned weeks, if not months, earlier? Would it make sense, be relevant, and add value for them as they try to solve issues that hadn’t been top-of-mind only days prior.”
This temporary pause included BDO’s organic social media and some paid advertising programs. They also took a step back on their enormously successful advocacy program, where employees share content with their social networks from BDO Connector, a branded program powered by Dynamic Signal.
A week later, BDO turned the programs on again, and they came roaring back to life.
The BDO teams had worked together to design a thoughtful strategy centered around how the firm was a force for good – and good information – during an unsettling time.
Content led with a message of “care and concern” and followed with tailored business insights that matched the moment. That included the helpful information employees could post from BDO Connector.
Employees couldn’t wait.
“They really wanted content to share,” Platt said. “They understood that this is a huge event affecting everyone, and they wanted to do their part. We’re helping them do it in a way where, by helping shape the message, they can feel more comfortable and confident. It’s why we’re trending higher in shares and seeing more engagement.”
BDO has seen sharp increases in social media engagement. In the first month, there was an 11 percent increase in active users on BDO Connector. Social shares from the platform led to a 183 percent increase in page views on BDO.com. Webinar registrations – a key delivery channel in this new normal, and one promoted heavily on BDO Connector – tripled during the COVID-19 period. These statistics confirm that BDO is playing a role in finding real solutions for businesses concerning COVID-19.
“For an Employee Advocacy program to be performing this well, and even growing, during a crisis is a testament to the work of the BDO team,” said Kimberly Ayala, Customer Success Manager at Dynamic Signal. “They’re a great example for every company about how to think through their program, what kind of content they should be putting out, and how being sensitive is smart in difficult times.”
Helping employees build their personal brands as thought leaders and subject-matter experts has always been a priority for BDO. Platt’s team supports that effort by providing content on BDO Connector that can be easily shared.
But as the pandemic spread, everything was happening so fast.
One concern was that the regularly scheduled content might not be appropriate for the moment. Collaboration is a BDO hallmark. So, the Brand Communication and Content Strategy Team and Social Media Team met – the beginning of a new weekly virtual meeting – to discuss how to proceed. They agreed it was best to take a short break and reevaluate their content strategy.
When leadership gave the proposal the green light, what the team refers to as “The Great Pause” began. Although employees could still view content on BDO Connector, sharing was temporarily turned off.
“Our people love BDO Connector and go to it quite often,” Platt said. “We didn’t want to lose that momentum. We kept posting content and explained in a straight-forward message to bear with us while we get this right.”
Over the next week, Humenycky’s team reviewed content and worked to align messaging across BDO’s four business lines and 17 different industry groups. She ensured that the first communication from the firm came from CEO Wayne Berson and was foremost a message about the welfare of employees, clients, and the communities where BDO operates.
“Our goal was to reopen BDO Connector and our content channels with a message of hope and resilience while providing information our clients and prospects would find helpful, and our employees would be proud to share,” Platt added.
On March 20, they were ready.
“Our first paragraph said, ‘Thank you, everyone, for your patience. We’re back live. Please feel free to share three of our latest COVID-related posts,’” Platt said.
And they did.
A LinkedIn article written by Berson, the CEO, kicked off the return. Two of the most-shared pieces of content have been promoting a BDO webinar on managing a business during a crisis, and a post on the emergency steps companies can take to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19. BDO’s Resilience Playbook, a thought leadership piece focused on helping companies persevere and emerge from this crisis stronger, has earned praise from the target audience of CIOs as the must-read report.
“Our professionals wanted to be part of the conversation early because BDO has services that are truly relevant in helping companies navigate the crisis,” Humenycky said. “We have a business continuity practice. We have advisory professionals dedicated to supply chain optimization, and tax professionals helping clients navigate the CARES Act. We have tailored services for the healthcare, retail, and restaurant industries – and more. These are critical services and highly impacted groups. Importantly, the pause enabled us to make sure that we were speaking with the right tone and the right messaging – and that we were going to market as one firm.”
Employee advocacy can be a bit like tiptoeing a fine line during a crisis, Platt added. The key is to ensure the content demonstrates the brand’s positive role in helping people and organizations cope.
“Through teamwork, we’re making sure that we’re striking the right tone,” Platt said.
Interested in learning more? Listen to this free recording of our recent webinar, “BDO’s Thoughtful Approach to Brand Advocacy During the COVID-19 Crisis,” featuring Lydia Humenycky, Andrea Platt, and Dynamic Signal communication expert Becky Graebe.