Chamber pros, can you relate to this 2020 meme?
I’ll bet. And for good reason.
2020 has been a “near-literal” train wreck for so many reasons. From the obvious COVID and economic shutdowns to murder hornets, civil unrest, massive forest fires, category-4 hurricanes, and a contentious political race.
And then we can’t even seek comfort with our loved ones because of social distancing. Throw on top of that the personal challenges that we all go through during normal times.
I will make the understatement of the year in
2020 has been emotionally exhausting.
As chamber pros, you’re trying to hold it together just like your members are.
We can’t control what 2020 brings us next but we can control how we respond to it and the tools we use to deal with it.
While it’s not your job to be a mental health provider to them, there are several things your chamber can do to help members and their businesses survive.
What Can the Chamber Do to Help Members Right Now?
I’m going to guess that very few of us have the professional training to help deal with members’ mental health concerns. But you are in a position to help members’ business owners and employees manage their stress levels just as you manage your own.
Webinars with Mental Health Professionals
If you’re already hosting webinars, you’re likely on the lookout for good content.
Self-care is a strong topic these days. Running a business is stressful enough but add in these circumstances and it’s amazing some people find the drive to get out of bed in the morning.
It’s a real struggle even for those who don’t have an existing diagnosis of anxiety and/or depression.
Talk with some of your members who specialize in mental health. See if they might share some tips for coping in uncertain times or tips/suggestions for self-care. By doing so, you could be providing someone with a helpline that they desperately need.
Many people are struggling because they’ve been let go. Business owners feel the guilt of closing their businesses because it means letting beloved employees go.
But closures are not the case for every business. Some have thrived during this time and they may be hiring.
Consider setting up a job matchmaking service where you connect the members who need jobs with the people who have them. The holidays will be here before we know it. Anything you can do to help members or even a community member find a more stable work environment will be appreciated.
Sometimes all you can do is laugh.
Occasionally, you need to step away from the serious business and try to bring some joy and laughter to your members. Make it a point to share some fun posts, funny videos or tell funny stories of things that happened to you or things going on in your life.
What may not seem funny to you at the time may be hysterical to someone who can identify with it.
Help your members and community smile.
After all, laughter is good medicine. However, please keep in mind that you don’t want to make light of emotional situations, nor should you post about funny things on days of extreme tragedy.
Stay in touch with your news feed and refrain from posting funny things when something terrible has just occurred. It’s tough in 2020 to actually find these days, but keep looking for them and cherishing them.
Also, stay away from politics or anything that could be construed as degrading. Your social media posts are a huge part of your chamber image and should be treated as such. No matter how funny you think it is that someone’s dog is dressed up like the candidate you don’t support, for instance, just move past it. Do not share.
Create a List of Resources
No matter how great your programming is right now in the areas of stress relief, self-care, and mental health, some people won’t feel comfortable signing up for your webinars, even if they need assistance.
To make them feel more comfortable in taking some of your advice, consider creating a list of members who can help and share that in a prominent spot along with your other COVID resources.
Also, when creating that list of resources, make sure you include recordings of your webinars help members who want the information but don’t want to be “seen” on the call.
Now is a great time to create a mentor program. People need a shoulder to lean on; not only for stress relief but to help them bounce business ideas off of one another. Mentorships are also great for people who need help with networking or finding a new position.
On the other hand, if someone is struggling with keeping their doors open, they may be interested in speaking with someone who has been there. Consider a very targeted mentor program or hotline for people who may be wondering if they should hold onto their business or shut its doors. Hearing from someone who has been there may help them find inspiration or the courage to do something difficult.
Entrepreneur Workshops, Resources, and Memberships
In addition to stress relief and self-care information, there’s another thing that the instability of 2020 has brought many people.
When the safety of a job is removed, people often see that as an ideal time to follow their dream of opening their own business.
Look at what services you have available for the entrepreneur and solopreneur. Do you have resources on how to start a business? Do you have an attractive chamber membership level that provides these new businesses with the types of things that matter most to them?
Even a blog post about side hustles could be helpful. Sometimes they want to open a business but aren’t sure what kind. Host a webinar and bring in people who turned their side hustles into lucrative careers for a little extra inspiration.
In addition to your Facebook page, consider creating a Facebook group around recovery and getting out information about reopening and other exciting news. Help your members by inviting them to share their daily or weekly specials, ask for things they need, share posts about nonprofits who have resources for those in need.
The upkeep for a page like this is minimal once conversation starts occurring. Keep the experience upbeat and post expectations. Remove people who do not adhere to your “rules of engagement.”
You could join one of these groups that already exists and participate in their conversations. But in doing this, you miss the opportunity to brand it to the chamber.
People remember stories. Highlight the efforts of people in your community who are doing something amazing. Share feel-good stories from others as well as those you’ve been a part of.
These types of posts will get a lot of shares but they will also help people feel good about your community. We could all use some of that right now.
Since a lot of anxiety around this time surrounds money, it’s a good idea to dedicate a section of your website to the financial resources that are out there to help. That includes loan information, grants, city resources, and anything that can help businesses stay viable.
These resources should be readily available on your website because they’re accessible when you aren’t. And when are people most likely to worry about money? At the end of the day when they’re going over bills or doing their books. Don’t make them wait until they can speak with someone at the chamber. Add these resources in a visible spot on your site so they are available at all times.
Focus on Coming Together to Help Members
While our country has been through pandemics and large-scale contagions before, we have never gone through it in the age of social media. Social media allows us to express more and be heard. We see endless posts about infection rates and bad news.
This overexposure to difficult topics is taking its toll on everyone’s mental health and robbing us of our usual coping abilities. As a community, we need to come together, not look for division.
Chamber professionals are in a unique position to help members’ needs be met met by connecting them with the types of solutions and people they can receive help from.