Three Box Strategic Communications Principal & CEO Amanda Hill for AMA DFW
Last November, business media started rumblings of a looming recession. As with all recessions, though, we didn’t know when it would hit or how much damage would be done. Hindsight truly is 20-20.
Recessions can feel like a needle getting ready to pop the balloon. Business leaders cover our ears and hope it’s not too loud. But recessions are a reality of the economy, and in the case of COVID-19, industries across Texas have been hearing a parade of balloons pop since March.
So, how were you communicating with your audiences pre-COVID-19 and how has your marketing strategy shifted in the face of a global pandemic?
Your organization’s first instinct might have been to bootstrap all marketing activity until the economy begins to recover. Except, once your audience is gone, there’s no guarantee of getting them back. While consumer habits will fluctuate in a recession, they won’t stop completely. It’s important to continue telling your story in a credible and genuine way.
So, don’t go dark during this downturn. Your stakeholders need to hear what you’re doing to strengthen and streamline your business to last. While national roadshows and big ad campaigns might not be a reality, there are marketing strategies to keep you connected without breaking the bank.
Here are four cost-effective ways to communicate with your audiences through COVID-19 and during the economic recovery phase to follow.
Create a Digital Newsroom
Audiences have been consuming an influx of COVID-19 related information, but they’re receptive to (and even crave) diverse content, while reporters are looking for new stories to tell.
Creating a digital newsroom lets you share content that showcases your company’s longevity, reinforces its strengths and tells relevant brand stories that deepen loyalty. The best platforms for a digital newsroom are likely already in place and will maintain relevancy after the economy recovers. Create a dedicated page on the company website for media looking to use your organization as a resource or focal point. Make it easy for them to find your brand’s history, leadership profiles, fact sheets and high-resolution photos and logos, if you choose to make those files accessible.
A digital newsroom provides an opportunity to tell your brand’s story, from history and milestones to its founders and modern leadership. Highlight your company’s core values, share how your culture has shifted in the face of Coronavirus and showcase what sets you apart.
Ultimately, remind your audiences that the brand is sustainable.
Be a Resource
Everyone — ranging from your customers to community leaders — are looking for perspectives on what to do next. If it aligns with your brand, share how your company is managing the current economic landscape, and offer insights on how to recover.
Meet with company leaders and determine what your public position will be on navigating through the recession long-term. As a team, develop approved messages that align with the company’s position, and provide guidelines for how leaders should engage on the topic publicly.
Then, offer senior executives as thought leaders. Allow them to speak transparently about the challenges of a recession, but also to instill confidence in the future. Encourage them to share perspectives in industry conversations, through media interviews and on their social media platforms, like LinkedIn and Twitter. While COVID-19 advice should be left to the medical professionals, your organization can still use this time to position your executive team as experts within your industry’s community.
Leverage Shared Platforms
Boost your brand’s social media presence and engage directly with customers. If appropriate, seek their feedback on your social channels. Be approachable, relatable and empathetic. The most successful brands on social media have a distinct personality and are incredibly engaging. That means having a dedicated team for rapid response, answering questions and responding to comments in real-time with compassion. Aim to reply to comments within one or two hours, or as soon as possible.
Equip a member of your team with approved responses to the most frequently asked questions and points of feedback that you receive and adjust these responses as needed. For example, how might your social responses change when Texas lifts the mask mandate or social distancing requirements?
Active participation on social media gives your fans a voice and allows them to create a dialogue with your brand. Insights from their feedback could lead to new product development, an innovated program or service, or a positive change to internal processes.
Identify ways your company can connect with the local communities where you operate. Go back to the basics. Do something simple to help front-line workers, small businesses or nonprofit organizations located near your headquarters, plants or retail stores. This could be as simple as delivering treats to a nearby hospital or collecting canned food items for your local food bank. When genuine, even small gestures go a long way in building community rapport with your brand.
Social distancing has redefined what personal interactions look like, but relationship-building still brings confidence to a community and positions your company as a trusted leader. By demonstrating authentic interest, your leaders can establish and strengthen positive relationships with community influencers and elected officials – relationships that can be mutually beneficial for years to come.
While the tactics listed above will look different across brands and industries, every organization can communicate well with stakeholders through a recession. Remember, what your brand says now will have a lasting impact – keep the lights on with strategic, empathic and helpful messages.
Amanda Hill is Principal and CEO of Three Box Strategic Communications, an integrated communications agency based in Dallas. Learn more at threeboxstrategic.com.