Written by Kelly Double, Acting Head of PR + Content at Ingenuity.
Turn the tap off. Keep quiet. Don’t say or do anything that could be seen as tone deaf. At times of change, all these instinctive responses are natural as a business’ knee-jerk reaction is often to focus on preserving themselves and their reputation. Coronavirus is a case in point. Budgets are being cut or frozen, and communications are often first on the list to go. It’s completely understandable, but if we rewind to 2008 (and all the recessions that preceded it) it’s easy to find evidence that this is the wrong approach. Instead we must ask ourselves what can we learn from previous downturns that will help us to weather this one and emerge stronger?
The answer is – if possible don’t silence your comms machine. You will have read multiple pleas from agency heads and industry bodies over the past weeks, outlining how important it is for brands not to go radio silent at this time, in order to avoid a standing start (or perhaps, heaven forbid, even worse) when we eventually come out the other side of this. The same applies for agencies themselves.
While caution is advised, clamming up is not. No matter how tempting it might be. The reality is that when it comes to your agency’s brand and communications, having a voice right now is incredibly important, for survival and future success. Getting the right messages out there now will put you in the best possible position to come out of this fighting.
In fact, if your discipline is experiencing particular turmoil at the moment, it’s more important than ever to put a stake in the ground and have your say, be sensitive, reassuring and realistic. Your clients will be panicking too, they need your steady voice and counsel right now.
Be aware, if you are not communicating, a number of your competitors are. Ask yourselves who will the brands remember when they look at choosing new partners down the line? The agencies that had a voice. The ones that were sympathetic and positive when times were tough. The ones that reassured, shared their learnings, their insights and offered practical solutions to the challenges lying ahead. That’s who.
So, agree your tone of voice and messaging and get stuck in. If someone in your team has something they want to share – perhaps a creative idea that they think could help – encourage them and get that message out there. Now is not the time for strong sales messaging, but empathy and insight-based food-for-thought will go a long way.
On top of constructive thought leadership think about your recent wins no matter how big or small and create a plan to amplify them across the channels available to you – earned PR or your owned channels, each is incredibly important at the moment, more so than ever. It might seem difficult to rally yourselves into positivity, but we know good news is out there! Amazing work is still being created and launched, new hires are still signing on the dotted line, and we know there are amazing new virtual internal initiatives doing the rounds too. They all have their place in your comms strategy.
Those agencies that shore up their messaging and ride the wave of the coming months carefully, but boldly, putting out a constant stream of considered communications, will come out the other side of this stronger and ready for the future.
If you’re interested in hearing more about agency comms in a time of crisis, please get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org