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Adapting your approach to communications to support growth during a recession


No matter where you look, there’s reason to be alarmed. The World Bank predicts that the global economy will shrink by 5.2% this year, by far its worst performance since the aftermath of World War Two. The American economy – the world’s largest – is already in recession, which has ripple effects right across the planet. Only this week the ONS announced the UK economy is 24.5% smaller than it was in February, cementing the domestic downturn as the worst since 1706.

Despite these panic-inducing headlines, it’s worth remembering that recessions can harbour some of the most successful, long-lasting businesses. Burger King, Uber and Airbnb were all founded in times of economic turmoil, and have gone on to become cornerstones of modern society. Even in 1706 – supposedly the mirror image to today’s economy – Twining’s opened its doors in London for the first time. 314 years later, and a cup sits next to this very keyboard.  

According to new research from O2, the UK has registered over 200,000 new businesses during lockdown. The difficult economic backdrop will only help them to become more resilient and nimble; two traits that will enable them to flourish as they scale. 

In order to navigate such a challenging environment, however, businesses must take steps to recession-proof themselves. Here we detail how communications can be leveraged to allow businesses to scale effectively during a recession: 

Take the time to examine and fine-tune your communications

It’s easy to knee-jerk during times of economic difficulty and begin to slash marketing and communications expenses. This may save pennies in the short term, but will damage brand awareness, reputation and revenue streams in the long run.  

Instead, taking the time to audit your programmes will help to clarify exactly what communications activity your business does and why it’s needed. Assess this against your overarching business objectives to decide whether you need to update your approach in line with any strategic changes in direction. Remember the importance of communicating clearly to your customers, employees and stakeholders during a time of crisis, particularly when the goals are shifting, to keep people engaged, motivated and adequately informed to alleviate any concerns. 

Critically, if you are aiming to secure an investment in the next 12 months, now is the time to start executing a programme designed to capture investor attention. How can you build the perceived value of your business through your communications programme? Think about what you need to do to highlight the strength of your product, your leadership team and brand, to prove your company is a recession-proof opportunity. 

Revisit your PR goals 

When consumers are less willing to spend, it may be time to switch your PR goal away from driving sales. Instead, you may want to use the time to refocus on brand identity, corporate social responsibility and thought leadership. Doing so will help to build trust, credibility and reputation, all of which will be invaluable when your customers are willing to open their wallets once again. 

The above tactics are all united by one thing – none of them will break the bank. Whilst revisiting your PR plan, make sure that all expenditure is delivering maximum return on investment. It may be the time to reconsider lengthy research reports or consumer stunts, switching to multichannel campaigns instead. This where a consultancy can be of most help, so take the time to source some free, independent counsel.   

Make your network works for you 

As well as targeting new clients remember to invest time in nurturing your existing client base. Giving them extra value or support during their moment of need will increase the likelihood that they will spend more with you when business is more buoyant. This will also help you to build customer loyalty, turning them into ambassadors who will recommend your services elsewhere. 

There are many ways in which communications can help make customers feel valued. Invite them to host webinars or record a podcast together – both opportunities that can create mutual benefit. Don’t underestimate the value of the humble newsletter too – a cost-effective way to stay front and centre of their minds and provide helpful content or free insight.  

The pandemic will undoubtedly lead to tough times ahead, but by thinking about your communications programme in line with the changing strategic goals of your business, you could help your business emerge not only unscathed, but stronger than ever before.  

If you need a hand navigating this challenging economic environment we’re on hand to help – drop an email to [email protected]