The economic news has most people pretty freaked out. There are rumblings about the next Great Depression, TV news gets more hysterical by the second, and everywhere you look, you’ll find someone immobilized with panic because the sky is falling.
The economic crisis creates real problems, both practical and emotional, for large numbers of people. So what’s your role? You’ve put yourself forward as an authority with your content community, so how are you living up to that challenge?
How will you make things better instead of worse?
1. Coach optimism
Although an abrupt interruption to your cash flow or having your 401K lose half its value are real and significant problems, the biggest problem in any kind of crisis is mindset.
Panic makes things worse. It makes things worse for your readers, and their panic can make things worse for the larger society. Fear is the enemy of good decisions, and panic simply makes them impossible.
Any time of great problems will also create great opportunities. When you look at solving problems as your key to success, you’ll start to see ways to create success in a very ethical, honorable way. (This is a fantastic time to be an information marketer.)
It’s often said (incorrectly) that the Chinese ideogram for “crisis” combines the words “danger” and “opportunity.” Bad etymology, but a good way to look at things.
Cultivate your own optimism, and share that with your readers. They need it right now.
2. Have patience with anxiety
I’m sorry to be the one to break this to you. In all likelihood, your readers are about to become a major pain in the ass.
Anxious people are difficult to be around. They don’t learn well, they’re not adaptable, and they’re obsessed with the worst possible scenario. They’re not good at seeing any point of view beyond their own distress and fear, and they become experts at raining on parades.
And nearly everybody is anxious right now.
While it would be nice to develop a virtual smacking machine that can reach through the screen and whack ’em one upside the head, the fact is that your community needs a little old-fashioned compassion right now. They’re freaked out and afraid, and that makes them act out.
Think of them as little kids facing school for the first day, if that helps. You don’t have to coddle them, and you don’t want to reinforce the “rightness” of their bogeymen. But you do want to muster all the patience you can.
3. Point out options
No matter who your readers are, there will be ways they can survive and thrive in this mess. Make it your job to look out for those ways. Research all the things your readers can do to find new opportunities, to take advantage of unseen paths, and to zig while others zag.
You have more tools to do that than you might realize. You’re good at thinking about things in innovative ways, and communicating that. You’re good at synthesizing something new out of seemingly unrelated pieces. You know how to use the techniques you find on Copyblogger to tell stories that will inspire courage, confidence and action.
Create solutions to problems. If you have a food blog, run a series on learning to love cooking at home. If you have a freelancing blog, teach your readers how to pitch to companies in panic mode. If you have a political blog, break down your analysis to allow people to make thoughtful, rational decisions based on their own enlightened self-interest instead of their fear.
(OK, that last one might be a little unrealistic.)
Present those solutions in reassuring, step-by-step formats that can be followed by people who are a little crazy with anxiety. Some of those solutions you’ll offer for free. If the topic is appropriate, some you may ask your community to pay for. Paying for information will focus their attention, which benefits them as much as it does you.
At the end of the day, the question of whether or not you monetize these solutions isn’t that interesting. What matters is that you have an opportunity to step forward and make yourself a true resource for your community.
To quote from Seth Godin’s brand-new book Tribes:
The secret of leadership is simple: Do what you believe in. Paint a picture of the future. Go there. People will follow.