Lisa Steingold
Lisa Steingold

The ugly truth… and how it will help you

by Lisa Steingold. The ugly truth about this time of crisis and how to get through it.

by Lisa Steingold. I know I should perhaps be writing about digital marketing and brands, but this whole coronavirus story has me thinking a little differently these days. I’m certain I’m not the only one.

I’m not sure if you’ve ever watched the movie, The Ugly Truth. A chauvinistic morning TV show commentator, played by actor Gerard Butler, tries to prove the relationship theories he espouses on his show called “The Ugly Truth”. In the movie, the show’s producer, played by Katherine Heigl, initially despises the man and his show before they (obviously) go on to fall in love. Sorry to ruin it for anyone, but it is Hollywood. For a brief moment whilst watching the movie I thought how fun it might be to create a show called The Ugly Truth. It would be vastly liberating to call things as they are and not to have to censor one’s views. I then decided that from a certain perspective, the likes of commentators, Gareth Cliff and Vusi Thembekwayo, are doing a good enough job without my interference.

In a recent blog, I wrote about Life truths that will save you time, but felt appropriate to follow this up with some (ugly) truths, particularly with reference to business and brands in the current context. So here it is.

1. You’re not failing, so stop personalising this

Don’t blame yourself. Ironically, I do this all the time, which is why I feel qualified to write on the subject; I personalise things that have nothing to do with me. The fact is, and I don’t care who you are and whether you’ve admitted it or not, but coronavirus has and is shaping us in ways we never imagined possible. While the government ‘keeps an eye on the situation’; businesses are closing, and people are losing jobs. This is not your fault and you haven’t failed. Coronavirus happened, decisions which you had no control over happened; so now it’s time to reassess and move forward. On this note, Barbara Walsh, wrote a great article titled There’s no time to wait, which I can strongly suggest reading.

2. Ask for help

The other day one of my clients turned around and said, “Lisa, I wish we’d reached out to you sooner. I thought we could do it ourselves.” I don’t blame them. In this economy, who wants to be shelling out cash; but the ugly truth is we need help more than ever before and in infinitely many respects. Get a coach, get your team coached, get a marketer to help you grow, get someone to help you generate content, get financial advice, take vitamins… Look at your life and business in equal measure and get the support you need. I don’t need to mention the old story about going fast or far. You actually can do both with a team in place.

3. Try something new

Careers in travel, tourism, events and countless other industries have collapsed. I’m not going to delve into the why of the virus or anything associated, because I’m not sure we’ll ever find answers,  but certain things have collapsed. As such you may be facing the daunting situation of not knowing how to reinvent yourself. Having had to close the chapter in many a job and career book, my suggestion is, try something new. It’s never been easier to learn a new skill for no cost at all or try new things. Truth is I’ve never studied marketing or brands; I’ve just always been slightly obsessed with building new things. Don’t tell my first boss this, but I got my first job as brand manager because I’d googled the job description, watched some interviews on YouTube and decided I wanted a career where I could get free products and go on TV shoots. Wasn’t exactly what ended up happening, but it certainly taught me that putting yourself out there to try new things can pay off.

4. Cut yourself some slack, this is anything but normal

If I had just R1 for every time I heard the term ‘new normal’, I’d have more money than could fit in Malusi Gigaba’s mansion. This is NOT normal. Never mind job losses and economic constrictions, let me pay kudos to my friends and colleagues, career men and women, who now find themselves having to adopt the role of full-time teacher. Yes we have to adapt to life now, but it certainly isn’t normal; and whilst some things may continue for a good while and even forever, it IS ‘normal’ to feel overwhelmed, burnt-out, exhausted, emotional, and whatever else you may be feeling. It’s not so much a matter of four seasons in one day, but often four (emotional) seasons in one hour. Cut yourself some slack and do what you need to, to wake up tomorrow and face it all again.

5. Get real

Whilst I prefer cycling, okay, massively prefer cycling, I’ve run my share of half marathons. Although only two hours, it’s always felt like the race went on forever. This, life as it is now, is a half marathon at sprint pace for the next however long so Get Real. Get real in your brand – don’t promise what you can’t deliver as it’s really not the time to annoy customers; and Get Real in your life and business. Look at your finances, be honest about restructuring things, and change. Brands delivering on real purpose are raking in the cash and the great news is that it is easier than ever to get the best talent on board, through consulting; and there’s never been as much appetite for authentic brands as there is right now. Plus, plus, plus.

Life is hard and in South Africa can seem darker than in our European and first-world counterparts sometimes; but many a business has begun and thrived from chaos. And that, my friends, is the Ugly Truth. And more importantly, how it can help you.


Lisa Steingold is consulting Head of Marketing for Metaco; the author of ‘Cut the Crap; the Power of Authenticity for Brands’; and a Chartered Marketer. She has a passion for tech, disruptive thinking and behaviour change.


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