I woke today to a great example of how the human connection and emotional intelligence truly impacts your branding message.

Turns out, our local CBS affiliate, KMOV, made some staffing cuts that were confirmed this morning when my husband turned on the television to watch the morning news.  He declared, “I’m placing a boycott on Channel 4 News” as I noticed we were back to the FOX affiliate.  Apparently, in those staffing cuts, two of our favorite anchors were let go.  One was an evening anchor named Steve Savard, 26 year veteran for the station, a local guy who had been an evening anchor KMOV for several years, and prior to that, an award-winning sportscaster.  The other was Marissa Hollowed, who had been a morning anchor for the past three years.

Both were more like friends who we brought into our home every day.  They brought more than helpful information to their role, they were reliable and became part of our family each day.  Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, we built trust in them as our lifeline to the world and they were someone we felt we could trust with news in a world where media is sometimes less than trustworthy.

I related to his frustration.

I could only imagine that contracts were due and/or budget cuts had to be made, but these two prime-time anchors – seemed risky decisions based on their position for the KMOV brand. Now I would never wish a job cut upon anyone, but in the scope of the best outcome for their brand at this time, could they not have chosen two lesser anchors or reporters?  Two anchors or reporters, who were not so vested on the personality of their brand?

I may never have the answer to this question, but it did remind me of two important points about branding:

  • Making a human connection in your building a brand is massively important.
  • Use caution in choosing a human to be your brand ambassador

With my business hat on, I could understand that “it’s a business thing”, but it created a ripple of very negative emotions around their brand for those who were upset by the change.  Like anything in life, change is inevitable, but how well humans process change is an unpredictable wild card that gets tricky for brands to navigate.

In our example, that process means that because we have negative emotions about what happened to our “friends” our first response is to voice our disapproval by moving to the FOX affiliate for our daily news.  The bigger problem for KMOV with is that as humans, it is highly likely we will grow an affection for the news anchors we are now watching at FOX, and may never return to KMOV.

So what can a business do to prevent this potential loss of engagement?

Better Communicate the Situation to Mitigate Potential Loss.

Knowledge is power here.  Without digging too far into an online search, I found an article by Jacob Barker from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch indicating that it was budget cuts that led to the staffing changes at the local station.

“…the layoffs were in response to the COVID-19 crisis. The ensuing recession has hit advertising spending across media types, hurting local news providers already dealing with advertising dollars and audiences migrating to other media forms.”

While this helped me understand the situation a little better, it was still a sore spot for my husband.  Why?  Well, I knew he was recalling an emotional trauma in his life.  A time when he was laid off from a company where, he too, had been a loyal employee for many years. Those emotions and difficult times we faced related to his lay-off were just played as the wild-card for how he would respond to the situation with KMOV.  See, those were scary times for his ego, he felt betrayed, worried about how he was going to care for his family, and those emotions were now fueling his empathy with Steve Savard and keeping him angry at KMOV.

While KMOV was unaware of this event, and it makes sense why the changes happen, those wild-card hidden emotions are more common in today’s consumers and have a huge impact on their response to how your brand is perceived.

Knowing how to communicate this situation and navigate these emotions are tricky for most, even on a good day.  However, if you have a potential brand-altering situation like this, you want to work with someone who has experience with emotional intelligence so they have the insight on how to help you best communicate the situation in a way that minimizes the risks to your brand.

Choose Your Brand Ambassador Wisely

Change is part of life, but if you can align your brand to something that makes a human connection while having some flexibility on the exactness of the character, you situate yourself for the best situation when change happens.

For example, instead of using a person, like Jan from Toyota, we are starting to see brands using animations and animals  –  like the Gecko from Geico Insurance, or the Fox from Carfax.  These characters are entertaining and human-like, and engage emotion for people who have an affection to animals.  They also provide greater flexibility for creating a brand ambassador that can withstand time, but they have to be created in a way that their personality is relatable and entertaining.  (Something Geico is doing better than the Carfax Fox)

In all cases, it is the human connection is what drives us in life.  That spark, or gut feeling, an important aspect in directing an outcome or navigating tricky situations.  Approaching such situations with a proper dose of emotional intelligence will help you better understand how your brand is perceived and help you mitigate risks before concerns arise.