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How brands are helping people in need during the pandemic

Sean Fitzsimons

Sean Fitzsimons, Creative Director

March 20, 2020

You don’t need to look far to find another alarming statistic or piece of bad news about the current pandemic. 

But not all news needs to be negative, particularly at a time like this. 

In recent weeks, social media has platformed its fair share of positivity, including Italians hosting gigs on balconies, and help and assistance being offered around the UK and Ireland to those in self-isolation via the hashtag #SelfIsolationHelp.

Good news is on the agenda

Digital PRs will be spending the next few weeks figuring out how best to approach journalists with stories during this sensitive time. 

Like any topic, readers will only consume so much bad news about the coronavirus, before looking elsewhere. There have already been calls from editors and reporters at The Yorkshire Post and BBC News to remind us that “uplifting distractions and inspiration” are definitely in demand.

Which is why it isn’t surprising to see that many positive initiatives announced in the past few days have gone on to attract national press coverage. 

It’s worth thinking about what positive stories your brand can tell over the next few months, which could go on to support and inspire people who need it, or at least provide them with a welcome distraction.

Positive initiatives from big brands

We have already started to see brands recognise and react to the problems that the coronavirus outbreak is causing to certain groups of people. Below we have highlighted some of these examples, which illustrate how companies can utilise their products and services as forces for good.

Restaurants are offering free food and drink to NHS staff

Acknowledging the tireless work that NHS staff are facing during the pandemic, Pret has announced that it will give all frontline staff free hot drinks and a 50% discount on food products, such as cakes and sandwiches.

The coffee and food chain has also closed off most of the seating areas in its UK restaurants, which will reduce crowding and cater more towards those who are self-isolating, thanks to a greater focus on takeaways.

A similar initiative is being followed by McDonald’s. The fast food restaurant is offering free drinks to NHS staff, social workers and emergency services.


Domino’s Pizza is offering free pizza in selected stores to NHS workers on Friday 20th March.

RUSH is offering wash and blow-dry to NHS staff

Something as simple as a trip to the hairdressers can really rejuvenate a person after a stressful day. In this second example of support being offered to NHS staff, RUSH is offering them a complimentary wash, blow-dry & style throughout what is expected to be the virus’s peak months of March, April and May.


Bandcamp wavers its share of profits for a day

Gigs, exhibitions and public gatherings of all kinds are being cancelled in many countries for the foreseeable future, meaning those who work within the arts and entertainment industries, especially those who rely on it as their main source of income, will be severely affected.

In response to this, Bandcamp announced that 100% of the profits made from purchases on their site on Friday 20th March will go directly to artists and labels. Considering that Spotify pays out less than $0.009 per stream, the amount that an artist can instead earn from unwavered fees on Bandcamp for just one day could make a considerable difference to their personal finances.

LinkedIn makes 16 ‘remote work’ courses free to access online

Working from home for more than a day or two is something most of us aren’t used to. Recognising that people will need plenty of tips on everything this entails, from staying productive, to managing the wellbeing of themselves and other team members, LinkedIn announced that 16 of its educational videos (equivalent to more than 13 hours of content) are now freely available to watch and learn from.


Balance offers a free one-year subscription

Coping with self-isolation will be challenging, and there is no telling the extent to which the pandemic may negatively impact on people’s mental health. As a helping hand, Meditation app Balance is giving people the chance to sign up to their app for a year’s free subscription, the offer is open for the duration of March.

Brewdog to make free hand sanitiser

Anyone who has ventured into a supermarket this month will know that hand sanitiser is at a premium. In recognition of the issue, Brewdog has announced that it will turn its attention to producing hand sanitiser in its Scotland distillery, saying it will be freely available to those in need of it.


The National Trust opens up parks and gardens for free

Natural spaces will be an essential outlet for people who are self-isolating. The National Trust has promised to open many of its parks and gardens around the country for people to get out of their homes and “use open spaces to relax and refresh”.

Tesco changes operations to prioritise those in need

Stockpiling from some shoppers has meant many people in the UK have recently been missing out on everyday essentials. In response to this, Tesco announced a number of changes to how their stores will operate, so that they can “provide more of what people need in a clean and safe environment”.

The changes include: designated hours of the week for the elderly and vulnerable to complete their shopping, a limit of 3 items per shopper on every product line, and new closing hours of 10pm to ensure that stocks can be replenished and its employees can properly rest.


Jameson donates $500,000 to Bartender’s Guild

With pubs and clubs continuing to empty or close down entirely due to safety concerns about the coronavirus, bartending is another profession at-risk of unemployment and losing out on a regular pay packet. In the US, Jameson Whiskey has pledged a $500,000 donation to the United States Bartender’s Guild, an organisation that helps empower and foster collaboration between bartenders throughout their careers.

The whisky brand will also match every dollar donated by the public (up to $100,000) to the Bartender Emergency Assistance Programme, which has been established to aid service industry personnel who are experiencing financial difficulties as a result of the outbreak.


Further reading:

Outside of current events, there are plenty of companies that maintain strong ethical standards by giving something back to their communities and workers all year round. If you’d like to read more about them, check out the B Corps directory.

Adage is constantly updating this article with information on how big brands are responding to the Coronavirus outbreak.

This column from the NYTimes dissects how the coronavirus has quickly infected the content that we consume online.

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