I’m a podcast and news junkie. Like many of you, my day starts with local broadcasts, continues with a business podcast or talk radio on the way to work and is sprinkled with news alerts throughout the afternoon. Business media is starting to talk of a looming recession – of course, we don’t know when.
“Recession” is an ominous word for business leaders focused on growth. It can feel like a needle getting ready to pop the balloon. You cover your ears and hope it’s not too loud. But recessions are a reality of the economy. So, how do you prepare, and what will you say to your customers if (or when) we get there?
Your first instinct might be to bootstrap communications until the economy begins to recover. Except, once your audience is gone, there’s no guarantee of getting them back. While consumer spending will slow in a recession, it won’t stop completely. It’s important to continue telling your story in a credible and genuine way.
So, don’t go dark in a downturn. Your customers and shareholders 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 during a recession.
Create a digital newsroom.
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. Create a dedicated page on the company website for media looking to tell the brand’s story. 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. Remind your audiences that the brand is sustainable.
Leverage shared platforms.
Boost your brand’s social media presence, and engage directly with customers by seeking their feedback on your social channels. Be approachable and relatable. 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. If possible, equip a member of your team with approved responses to the most frequently asked questions and points of feedback that you receive. Aim to reply to comments within one or two hours, or as soon as possible.
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 improved program or service, or a positive change to internal processes.
Be a resource.
Everyone — ranging from the media to community leaders — will be 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. 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 at conferences and events about the challenges of a recession, but also to instill confidence in the future. Encourage them to share perspectives at industry events, through media interviews and on their social media platforms, like LinkedIn and Twitter. Use this time to position the executive team as industry experts within influential communities.
Identify ways your company can connect with the local communities where you operate. Go back to basics. Do something simple to help schools, small businesses or nonprofit organizations located near your headquarters, plants or retail stores. This could be as simple as collecting backpacks for local elementary students or hosting a day of service for your employees in the community. Even small gestures go a long way in building community rapport with your brand.
Personal interactions bring confidence to a community and position 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.
Not all of these recommendations will work for every brand, but every brand can keep the lights on. Be prepared to communicate with (and keep) your audiences during a recession, and remember, everything comes back around.