business in recession

Future proofing business during a recession

How to prepare for a recession

Recession, rising high inflation, a contracting economy, a sharp downturn, a bear market. These are the words in our news headlines. If you hold the purse strings to a budget, hold your nerve as we hit negative economic growth. It’s important not to be reactionary and panic. Keep focused on your company’s long-term objectives and use PR and comms to gain a competitive advantage.

This downturn could be short and sharp or a long and drawn-out economic recession. The businesses that will win will be the ones that keep relationships strong with all their key audiences, who are strategic in approach but who allow for a healthy dose of opportunism.

Sarah Woodhouse, Director at AMBITIOUS, said: “During a recession or economic downturn, businesses immediately look for services that can be cut to save money. In the past, the PR, comms and marketing teams have been at the sharp end of this. However, businesses are learning that they need communicators.  Clients, customers, employees, shareholders, investors and stakeholders all need to be kept close, up to speed and buy into company decisions and developments. The sales pipeline also needs support at the top end of the funnel to continue to build relationships with prospects.”

“It’s imperative to ensure your messages are considered, curated and communicated during tough times. Turning off comms in the short-term will hurt your future goals and economic growth.”

A 2010 Harvard Business Review study of 4,700 companies going through recessions found that “firms that cut costs faster and deeper than rivals don’t necessarily flourish. They have the lowest probability—21%—of pulling ahead of the competition when times get better.”

Research shows that cutting PR and marketing is a bad idea.

Recession proof your business. Here are top tips to get ahead and how to prepare for a recession:

Has your business prepared for communication challenges around this recession?

Review your issues and crisis preparedness: has your business foreseen all the issues related to this recession? What’s the impact of businesses in your supply chain going bankrupt? What’s the impact of continued inflation on your business and employees? They will worry about their job security. Do you have an emergency fund? Have you plotted out potential scenarios, do you know what your company stance will be and have you developed supporting statements? Are your spokespeople media trained to support your messages?

Out communicate your competitors with clever content

If your competition reduces their PR and comms activity, this is the time to secure a competitive advantage. By holding your nerve and continuing to bring value to the sector you can secure a strong share of voice, build third-party endorsement and elevate your position. If you switch off now, you’ll have to spend a lot more time and effort switching back on and mobilising.

Support your sector and grow positive relationships

A little goes a long way! If your competitors are drawing back on partnerships, sponsorships and media spend, then this is the time to pick up coveted opportunities and tie in multi-year opportunities at a good rate. You’ll also build a huge amount of goodwill this way and the rewards will be mutually beneficial. This type of activity also sends a sign to the market that you are in good shape and in control. Invest in creating connections.

Be a helping hand

Beyond any product or service decisions, what counsel, advice and support can you develop to help your clients or customers? If you have a ‘helpful’ plan this can be mobilised via your PR approach, personal brand of your leadership, your content strategy and any other comms touchpoints you have. Provide expert advice.

We still have a talent shortage

The talent crisis isn’t going away because of the recession. You will still need to keep the best and hire the best, providing great career opportunities as unemployment rises.

Communicating your strategy to manage the recession to potential employees will reassure internal and external stakeholders alike. Whatever decisions need to be made in your business you need a communications team to be able to explain these to your employees and ensure your comms is top-notch.

Build digital PR gains

While competitors are dormant, what can you do to build digital ground and your rankings for keywords? Build your content strategy, secure those backlinks, keep focused on your domain authority and use the time to get to know the new GA4 analytics from Google.

What’s on your search engine results page?

What do you see on the first two pages of Bing or Google if you search for your company’s name? Use this time to develop a SERP strategy to curate and influence what different search terms reveal about your business. Make what people find interesting and reflective of you as a business – infographics, video, media coverage, reviews, and photography.

Innovate and test and learn

What’s coming down the line in terms of trends and opportunities? Right now, it’s all about voice and video… what can you do now to upskill your comms team and use this in your PR and comms moving forward? Get all your skills in shape so that post-recession you can lead on this.

Thought leadership to elevate your corporate brand

What will your industry look like post-recession? When growth starts again what will have changed? Commission the research, get the greatest minds on this subject and then communicate this to your stakeholders via your communication channels. Lead the pack.

Focus on growth marketing

There is nothing like a business in recession to focus the mind and dissipate turf wars. If you have always wanted to get your sales/business development, marketing and PR teams working together then now is the time. Get this right now and reap the rewards later. It makes sense to build the pipeline and see how to increase your income.

Don’t stop communicating your ESG plans

There is a risk that tighter budgets will mean less investment in ESG and corporate sustainability. But cutting investment in this area represents a significant risk in the long-term, given upcoming legislative changes and the engaging nature of Gen-Z. Meanwhile continuing to communicate on ESG – including being transparent about the challenges – will pay dividends in the future.

We have a change communications management package to support businesses through challenging times. These are available on request. Get ahead of the rest and book a half an hour call to help us, help you, navigate your PR and communications planning [email protected].