I have been following the developments in print media business; newspapers are facing distribution problems and more importantly, the courage of foot soldiers ( Circulation sales executives ) and the occupational risk associated with the sales operations. Let’s see how it all started: A section of social media/digital news portals started talking about the possibilities of the virus entering homes through newspapers deliveries. Newspaper companies countered this by posting videos that established the hands-free newspaper printing and handling process. However, readers worries were not addressed. Readers were worried about how a newspaper is handled after it comes out of the press. And the problems started right there!
The first thing that the firms needed to do was to ensure that their sales executives were well protected. That not only meant physical protection but also psychological protection. Consider this; except for the circulation executives who must go to distribution centres ( Depots ) in the morning, all other employees can work from home or in a protected socially distanced work environments. This was the time to show that extra care for the sales force so that they come up with better measures to convince newspaper vendors to engage in the distribution work. Concrete measures such as life coverage, additional allowances, protective gears and recognition could work very well in situations like these. Similarly, for newspaper vendors, firms could have got together to ensure social distancing measures at the depots and to back up the good intent, protective gears like masks, gloves, hand sanitizers etc could have been arranged at the depots. Now visualize this – you are watching a video that captures a depot operation where people are wearing masks and gloves and handling the newspapers maintaining a safe distance from each other, and getting ready to deliver it at your doorstep. That gives the readers a different sense of confidence – much like when you go to buy groceries and find only five people at the store and a distance of six feet is maintained.
However, to be able to correct the situation, firms need to respond to the sales force safety requirements first. Recognise them as heroes, reward them with financial security and empower them to run the distribution efficiently. Put your financial and creative might behind your own teams and allow them to collaborate with competitors. A collaborative approach to tackle this problem will help tide over this crisis.
Firms need to respond and respond with a future orientation. As Mark Cuban, the American billionaire investor says – How companies treat workers during these times will define their brands for decades. ( See here https://www.cnbc.com/video/2020/03/25/how-companies-respond-to-coronavirus-will-define-their-brand-for-decades-mark-cuban.html)