When things get difficult for businesses and income takes a nose-dive, business owners usually look for ways to cut costs. They will often start with the fixed-cost overheads in head office.
PR, Marketing and Communications (especially Internal Communications) are sometimes seen as non-essentials that can be dispensed with in an emergency or financial squeeze. You will not be surprised to learn that as someone who works in this field I have an interest in proving to you that cost-cutters should look elsewhere if they value the survival of their business.
So if you are a CEO or business owner, here is why I think you should hold onto these functions and why I think your ability to ride out the storm depends on it:
Public Relations (PR)
- You will need reliable and trustworthy people to handle any adverse media attention and respond to journalists confidently. Now is not the time to hurriedly take on a new PR agency that doesn’t know your business well, if you already have one that does.
- If market conditions have changed and your customers are now different or have different needs, you will need to pitch stories in new places to attract new interest in your business. Consider the example of food wholesalers who have no restaurateurs to sell to due to Coronavirus closures. Instead, they now need to sell directly to retail consumers. PR specialists can help you make that shift.
- Customers will be worried, so you will need to reassure them that you can continue to serve them and that you will be around for a while longer.
- Suppliers will be worried too. As above, you will need to reassure them that you can still trade, you still have a future and that you will still be able to pay them. If not, they might stop supplying you or might withdraw credit terms which could have a devastating effect on you.
- If there’s a lull in normal business activity, you’ll have time to engage in PR activity, charitable work, community-interest stories and participate in outreach work. These lulls are to be taken advantage of, and are not for you to sit licking your wounds and feeling sorry for yourself. You snooze; you lose.
- Your staff will be worried and if you cannot reassure them about what you are doing and show that you are in control of the situation, productivity could drop suddenly amidst the uncertainty.
- Unhappy, uninformed staff are often “unengaged” too. Staff who lack engagement in your mission tend to get in the way and impact morale of other staff.
- In the absence of information, your staff might start giving the wrong messages to customers.
- Project costs could escalate if decision-making stalls; so you need to tell everyone what is going on.
- On Coronavirus, according to Forbes, staff trust their employers as a reliable source of information, even more than the media or the government.
- If employees don’t learn about changes to your business quickly, they will not be able to respond in a timely manner, which will limit your ability to pivot and switch direction effectively.
- Your staff can be the best ambassadors for your business, so by taking them on the journey as advocates, you’ll double the impact of any PR or Marketing efforts.
- Product, price, promotion, place, packaging, position and people: you’ll need to stay on top of the 7 Ps of marketing in order to survive the changing market conditions.
- When your sales pipeline dries up, marketing helps redirect the input funnel towards the right customers. How will you know what your customers need if you have no one researching the market and doing user-research around your products? If you know who your customers are, where they are and what they need, your sales staff can refocus their efforts to take advantage of new opportunities.
- To support internal comms and PR efforts above, there will be a need for advertising, for social media work and for content that reinforces it.
- Crises often present new opportunities, yet if you can’t promote them in the right way, your customers won’t know about them and can’t buy from you.
- Brand: you’ll need to be working hard to manage the value of your brand in people’s minds and seeking out opportunities to pivot and exploit (appropriately) the changing market conditions.
- Employer brand: You may need to work harder to persuade the best talent that you are still worthy of their applications for employment.
- The more visible your brand is in a crisis (in a positive way), the easier it is to counter negative PR. If you’ve changed direction, now could even be the perfect time to re-brand and give customers, partners and suppliers a new reason to be confident in your business.
Can you afford not to?
I’ve set out just a few of the reasons why you should maintain your current spend level on PR, Marketing and Communications in a crisis. You might even need to increase it.
Marketing, PR and Communications are not just for the boom-times. So rather than wondering if you can afford them, perhaps the better question to ask is whether you can afford not to have them.
If I can help you out at this difficult time with your employee comms, customer comms, marketing or PR, I’m happy to give you a few ideas or suggestions on what you can do to ride out the crisis and come out of it in a stronger position …a free, zero-obligation chat.
Get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.