The global pandemic has been a stress-test for many businesses and their communications departments. While many organizations have chosen to bring external marketing communications to a complete standstill and shelve all upcoming campaigns, others are bravely weathering the storm, making consistent external communications a priority. Jamie Kightley, Head of Client Services at IBA International, argues that the authority and field leadership demonstrated by organizations who have maintained regular patterns of activity during the crisis will have a positive business impact long beyond the end of the pandemic.
Whatever industry you operate in, demonstrating business strength and strong customer support is the key for driving sales and attracting prospects – and during the coronavirus crisis prospects will be taking note of an organization’s ability to cope with the external market forces. Businesses will start to face challenges that they could not have expected or predicted, but this should not be a reason to bring external communications to a halt.
Despite budget cuts and unexpected challenges, organizations need to uphold a regular pattern of communications activity and send consistent positive messages to clients, prospects and the media to ensure they emerge from this crisis stronger than before –sustaining clients and generating prospects throughout will be the true measure of success. This is where a carefully planned pattern of PR and marketing can demonstrate authority, business strength and customer support in a time when decision makers across many industries are craving guidance, leaving competitors falling by the wayside.
A solid comms strategy is now more important than ever
The scale of COVID-19 means every company has been impacted in one way or another. Business continuity has never been so vital and at the heart of all contingency plans is flexibility. From a PR and marketing perspective, that may well mean holding fire on that scheduled product launch or partnership agreement or postponing a campaign until even Q4, but it would be foolish to cut off all activity. Why? Because people notice.
The problem is that not every company has a solid methodology or an understanding in place of how to stay relevant and appeal to potential prospects even at the best of times – let alone during a global pandemic. It is those companies with a carefully thought-out, blend and consistent pattern of PR and marketing activity that will enhance their reputations post COVID-19, and why those who don’t will find life increasingly tough ¬as customers look for strong partners going forward.
Content pipelines matter
During a crisis it isn’t easy to keep communications running as usual. But maintaining a pattern of communications activity at a time of great difficulty is a signal that a company is successful, sufficiently capitalized and financially stable. This not only demonstrates a company is committed to providing support to their customers during their time of need, but that they are fit for purpose on a long-term basis as well. This is especially important in the B2B landscape where new investments are usually over six-figure sums and buyers’ careers depend on making the right decisions.
This does not only concern direct communications with clients and prospects – but with the media, too. Remember that they provide third-party endorsement that puts an organization in its prospects’ marketplace. And at the moment, not only do companies need the media – but the media needs them too!
Journalists will start to connect the dots
Frequency of press communications helps journalists identify and make judgements on companies. Journalists are experts at spotting patterns. When a company is creating consistent and relevant noise in the media, a journalist or editor will take notice. Even if the journalist does not choose to run a piece of content, it has served to heighten their awareness and understanding of a company which always pay dividends further down the line. At the same time, when the level of press activity of a company suddenly drops, this instantly signals there is a problem. That the company is unable to cope when the going gets tough.
This does not mean that during a time of crisis a company should produce masses of content for the sake of it, but they should signal enough to demonstrate an appropriate level of ‘business as usual’ – a volume of activity which aligns with their brand status.
Rise to the occasion – educate your field
Marketing is often focused on leadership – brand leadership, thought leadership and industry leadership have become buzz words in the industry. Now is the time for organizations to demonstrate that leadership to clients, prospects and media. Look for stories about customers working remotely, delivering for their customers and using technology to enable jobs to be done. It could even be a story about how a brand has stretched their offering during this challenging period – from engines to ventilators, gin to sanitizers.
Whether it is in the form of a case study, a blog or a thought leadership article, these mediums can form important signals of success and business continuity, and act as a key element in a pattern of activity.
Some B2B businesses are taking the opportunity to redefine their market – the ‘new’ supply chain, ‘re-defining’ field service. A blog, white paper or thought leadership article provides a powerful signal, a vital component of a pattern that signals success and enables these companies to put themselves in front of journalists who will use these striking and thought-provoking pieces to help educate their readers – and of course your potential prospects.
Showing leadership today will have benefits down the line
Throughout the media, industry giants are being spotlighted for their contributions to helping with relief efforts or guiding their corporations through the crisis by holding large conferences online, or donating their resources to helping sift through COVID-19 data. But organizations do not have to commit to such grand acts of leadership to show authority in their field and become first ports of call for industry insights. Regular thought leadership articles demonstrating solutions to new challenges that businesses are facing as a result of the virus is enough. Organizations also need to give business blogs and social media attention as well – this is where prospects will be able to quickly see commitment to customer support.
In the current market environment letting your communications efforts suffer at the hands of budget cuts is seen as the easy option – and an option many organizations have opted for. But the key to weather this storm is to focus on the future. Organizations that put their full weight behind external communications and use their patterns of activity to highlight their business strength and dedication to standing by their customers will reap the benefits they sow, even after the pandemic has ended.