Coronavirus comms: What we can learn from SMEs to prepare for a post-Covid19 world

As marketeers working with clients across a wide range of sectors from construction and manufacturing to education and financial services, we’ve seen the small-to-medium businesses and organisations (SMEs) that we work with adapt and evolve at a pace never experienced before in the face of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Speed of response and agility – a key competitive advantage of SMEs – has never been more valuable. In most cases there hasn’t been time to take months over a rebrand or to launch a new creative campaign; small businesses have had to shape their offering overnight to ensure that customers don’t opt for a more visible or versatile competitor.

Our role in all of this has been to work with both existing and new clients to ensure that they communicate with their customers, employees and stakeholders in new and ever-changing ways and we’ve learnt so much by being part of that process. Supporting them to quickly get across new messaging in a way that will reach, resonate and reassure customers that they are adapting and evolving has been key. And ‘going digital’ has become business critical as opposed to a ‘nice to have’. Thankfully most clients have realised in the face of crisis that it is really all about the message and that the channel is secondary. Digital skills are important but fairly easy to pick up with the right software. Strategic comms and engagement skills however require expert support.

Taking a long term approach to a short term crisis

As much as the news would have us believe this period of time has been all ‘doom and gloom’ for businesses, there are of course many that have thrived, our toilet roll manufacturer client being one of them! Although it’s a case of ‘right product, right time’ their challenges have been just as great, with unprecedented order levels to fulfil and a stretched supply chain. There are also those businesses that have used their skills and adapted their offer or service to suit the here and now, let’s face it, we all wish we were Zoom right now! Gin brands manufacturing hand sanitiser, textile businesses producing hospital scrubs, when they couldn’t do ‘business as usual’ they made their usual something different!

However, even where there are positives, the key from a marketing comms perspective has been to avoid using the crisis as a ‘quick win’ promotional tool – something which would erode long term reputation. Those who will be remembered for the right reason are those that have taken the opportunity to showcase their unique expertise and offer by being useful and reassuring. Although we’re trying to avoid using the phrase ‘new normal’, we certainly hope that this approach becomes the norm and that the image of marketeers as ‘spin doctors’ can finally be put to rest.

Fast-tracking innovation

It’s undoubtedly been a ‘head down, battle through time’ for many businesses, including us, but it’s also been a time where so much amazing, innovative and best practice work has been delivered and capturing and maximising that is so important. As we emerge from the crisis and get used to new ways of working, now isn’t the time to stop evolving. We have proved that new ideas and concepts we never thought possible can be implemented quickly and easily under the right circumstances and maintaining that ‘urgency’ when it comes to innovation will no doubt be critical to future success. If ever there was a time to stop ‘doing things as we’ve always done them’, it’s now.

From a comms point of view, this needs to be woven into the DNA of the business from the inside out. Creating a strong internal brand and employee value proposition based around doing the right thing and doing it well and efficiently is the foundation on which a strong external-facing brand can be built. It’s no longer enough to just say it, you have to ‘be’ the change.

Back to basics

But what all of this has really taught us is that the basics of human communication and engagement are enduring and can and should be retained even in the digital age. When you can’t physically be with your employees, customers and stakeholders, keeping them updated and engaged with well written content that speaks ‘to’ them and not ‘at’ them is critical. While video conferencing and social media have taken on a life of their own, you will only be able to truly engage your audiences by helping them to ‘filter out the noise’ and by keeping things simple.

As we have said for a long time, clarity is the cornerstone of any brand or business. If your proposition and messaging can’t be understood by a child, it will bypass a generation that have become used to only reading headlines.

Comms is king

You may well now be prioritising investment in a new website, digital marketing campaigns, and online tools to continue ‘business as usual’ in a post-Covid19 world but taking a step back to consider what all of this means from a strategic communications perspective will maximise your return on this investment in the longer term. If your web developer or digital agency doesn’t have comms expertise, your efforts may well miss the mark. That is where we are different. We start with the content, not the technology. We start with people, not platforms. We can help you ‘go digital’ while ensuring that you don’t lose the human touch that has proved so vital to what makes the world and the economy function.

Get in touch with us now to start your journey towards where you need to be in a future that you hadn’t previously considered possible.

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