Managing a crisis: fight or flight?

Andrew Scott, CEO of Purplex Marketing, discusses how companies should manage their marketing and comms during a crisis.

As Britain faces a national crisis with the Coronavirus, organisations are taking urgent action to adapt their business operations.

The decisions made by directors and business owners over the coming weeks are likely to shape the future of their companies.

The welfare and health of the population is the government’s top priority, but it is expected the health crisis will pass in a ‘relatively’ short space of time, at the time of writing (20/03/20) the Prime Minister said 12 weeks.

But the social and economic impact is likely to be with us for considerably longer, and it is therefore vital that the UK remains ‘open for business’.

Never before has it been more important for leaders to avoid knee-jerk reactions. Short term actions can have serious unintended consequences, and a cool head and pragmatic approach is essential. Reviewing non-essential costs is a responsible measure, but going into panic mode (‘flight’) and blindly cutting costs could cause catastrophic damage making it almost impossible for your business to recover as we return to normal.

There is no question that we face an economic roller coaster. Thankfully, the government is responding positively and pumping an initial £330 billion into the economy with further unprecedented steps to stabilise the economy and support business. Allowing companies to postpone tax payments, providing grants and cutting business expenses (such as business rates for small firms) will all help in the coming weeks. Interest rates have been slashed and banks will announce a raft of support measures to UK business shortly.

Business leaders now need to step back and think carefully about their business and marketing strategy.

The current situation has forced people to re-evaluate and change the way they currently work. Individuals are spending much more time at home. Suddenly, people are reminded that their home is their castle, a safe place for them and their family. Many will rethink their priorities. Holidays, cruises and travel plans are unlikely to be on the shopping list, and any budget for these are more likely to be spent on their home.

At the same time, without the manic day-to-day lives we usually lead, people are spending much more time watching TV, listening to the radio and browsing online; they are immersing themselves in communication channels.

For retail installers, while enquiry levels will slow down, those companies who are most visible and most proactive will emerge the winners, signing-up any business that is available and keeping the wheels turning until the situation improves. Those that panic and go into lockdown will be at most risk from failure. Communicating the right messages and adapting offers and incentives is key – perhaps focusing on added living space and home offices with attractive finance deals.

For B2B suppliers, it is important to remain visible. With more time on their hands, business customers are more likely to see marketing communications and have the opportunity to review products and suppliers.

Communicating how you are supporting customers, managing your business and providing continuity of service are better messages right now than overtly sales messages.

As we come out of this crisis the landscape will have changed. News is already breaking of companies collapsing, and others will downscale their operations.

For those true business leaders who look to the future, it is time to think about the recovery strategy. Communicating right now with the market, your customers, and your competitors’ customers is crucial. But alongside this, getting prepared and ready to step forward as the recovery happens will give organisations a major advantage and secure their future, and that of their employees and stakeholders.

This is an incredibly difficult time and our thoughts are with those affected by this virus and those facing the impact of it, both as business leaders and employees. At Purplex, our teams are working remotely to support customers and keep the wheels turning, and we are here to support any organisation unsure how to manage their communications at this difficult time.

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