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Ask The Expert: Marketing Through an Economic Downturn

The purpose of our article series Ask The Expert is to capture and share Tech, Data, Marketing and Creative sector expertise. Local. Authentic. Insightful. We are featuring experts, thought leaders and influencers. Showcasing sector wisdom learned through experience.

Today, we are sharing the wisdom of Sarah Woodhouse Co-Owner & Director at AMBITIOUS PR. We asked Sarah…

“Can you share your thoughts and tips around the importance of marketing through an economic downturn?”

Sarah Woodhouse:

When the world changes overnight then the pressure is really on to navigate the ‘now’ while at the same time preparing for the ‘next’. You have to accept that was the right plan ‘then’, is not the right plan ‘now’ despite all the planning and investment that may already have gone into your strategy.

A rapid response is needed to ensure your communications is not out of kilter with the change in public sentiment.

Marketing, PR and communications teams are facing unprecedented challenges At a time, such as this, it’s hard to see the wood for the trees, to focus on anything other than what’s critical and what’s right in front of you. Consider the following four pillars as guidance to get you through the short and medium-term. Your objective is to best placed to bounce back and quickly gain a competitive advantage when the market conditions are right.

Pivot your plans

Pivot the messaging, PR tactics and the way you talk to customers right now – rapid response communications – to support business continuity in this fast-changing landscape. Continue to monitor whether this plan is working and evolve as the situation evolves. Have a team tracking sentiment in real-time.

Have an internal call daily with senior clients or internal stakeholders to understand how the news agenda is affecting their business and react accordingly. There is no time for pontificating strategy in this situation. You know your market so it’s about gut feeling and clever and creative tactics. Unless you have a solution, your messages are unlikely to be sales driven but will be focused on galvanising and supporting your community. Work with a team that is empowered to make decisions and act fast beyond the boundaries of the normal working day – 24/7 support.

Critical communications

As business-critical decisions are made then support is needed across communication channels to ensure these decisions are imparted sensitively and appropriately. Adapt your message to get the tone right for each audience. Create in advance the needed assets for each communication channel. Will your CEO need media training to support the delivery of their message? How should any changes be communicated to stakeholders? What are the most effective routes to keep customers in the loop? Think of every last difficult question that may get asked. Preparedness is everything.

House in order

If you use time wisely during a downturn it can be a good investment in making your future communications more effective. Come out the other side stronger and better. Commit to getting your house-in-order and ensuring your communication channels are as effective as possible so you aren’t having to do this work when the economy is on the road to recovery. All those things you’ve been meaning to do for ages, this is the right time to do them.

You’ll have your own list, but this could include analysing previous campaigns; finally updating your keyword/SEO audit; reviewing the effectiveness of your various channels; embedding that tech to save time in the long run; team training to skill up your people and make them stronger on the other side.

Business recovery

Be ready to rebuild, to transform. Monitor the rich insights, the trends, the fundamental shifts in human behaviour, the new zeitgeist, the creativity that comes out of adversity and prepares for the rebound. It’s likely that major changes may have happened to your sector; the way you do business may have changed, competitors may not have weathered the storm, new competitors may be on the horizon, consumer opinions may have changed and who you are targeting may have shifted. Get your strategy and planning done now. Have a plan ready to switch on ‘on the other side’. Test that plan. Be ready to hit go as soon as it’s right to do so!

Finally, you are not alone in this. Don’t be afraid to seek out connections. Who can help you? Speak to trade organisations that represent your sector for insight. Get involved in that webinar to learn about how your peers are handling the situation. Take advantage of that free offer of consultation from a local expert. It may not be possible at this time to invest financially in support, but you can invest in relationships. Reach out for a chat and you may be surprised at how powerful and helpful a network can be!

Thanks so much for sharing, Sarah!