23 May Prosperity amidst a global crisis: Four things your business can do to thrive in uncertain times
It’s no secret that the current business environment in South Africa is not particularly conducive to prosperity. Even before Covid-19 arrived in the country, low business confidence, inefficient public sector procurement processes and slow economic growth was hampering local business development. Enter lockdown, closely followed by Moody’s downgrade of South Africa to junk status, and we have business owners panicking about how to keep their head above water while operating under severe restrictions. Well, we have some good news for you. Helping our clients navigate these trying times has taught us some valuable lessons about what you can do to keep your business on track, and we are sharing these lessons with you. While especially relevant today, our “Four Cs for Choppy Seas” go beyond the global coronavirus pandemic – they are time-tested and future-proof ideas that can position you a cut above the rest in the competitive business environment.
Shortly after lockdown was announced, you may have noticed your social media feeds and email inboxes become flooded with news and announcements from suppliers, partners, or your favourite brands about their operations and safety measures during lockdown. Some were slower on the up-take, but most companies eventually sent out a carefully-crafted message.
This is a mistake we have seen many companies making, and its easy to avoid. Most business will already have the infrastructure in place to communicate with staff, stakeholders, customers and the media – they just need to utilise it strategically and more regularly throughout a crisis. Let everyone know what you’re doing, how you’re doing, what you’re planning – “over-communicate” if you must. Provide regular updates and share helpful information. This will help you remain relevant and prominent to your target market. It will keep your staff engaged, and it will give your supply chain peace of mind. Lack of communication in times of crisis leads people to assume a negative not positive outcome. This brings us to the second C.
While any number of business operations can be impacted by a crisis – sales, production, logistics – there is one thing a crisis can’t take away from you. Your knowledge. This is a huge asset and it should be leveraged through difficult times. Businesses finding themselves with more time on their hands should make the most of it by creating content that will engage with their current stakeholders as well as with future markets.
In the context of the current pandemic, this could mean generating helpful content about the virus. However, this should still be relevant to you and your business. A good example was demonstrated by one of our clients; a small law firm who decided to leverage their expertise by offering free advice to companies and individuals regarding the legal implications of covid-19. What is needed is real human communication delivered with sensitivity and compassion.
Content can also mean you spend this time getting to things you may have been putting off: your crisis communications plan, your workplace policy on social media use, your “how to” blog for clients. All these elements can add to the longevity of your business and will ultimately see positive returns in the future.
Some of the most successful campaigns we have seen throughout the coronavirus pandemic have related to teamwork and collaboration. Aside from the strengths that a strategic partnership can bring to your business, it appears that people love seeing companies and industries working together to overcome a crisis. Be it public-private partnerships, working with competitors, or initiating a new operation, collaboration can strengthen both your operations and your reputation. A recent local example of this can be found in the 29 March 2020 edition of the Sunday Times, which displayed a full-page declaration from Woolworths, Spar, Checkers, Shoprite, and Pick n Pay: “We shall proudly serve”. The advert made use of the different company logos to put the words together, and quickly made its way onto social media. This unusual collaboration between competing companies was novel and caught the attention of the nation.
Our last “C” is all-encompassing and can be integrated into your communications, content, and collaboration efforts. Creative campaigns that think outside the box, are positive and unique will engage best with your audience, especially at a time where people are on their phones and online more than ever before. As the world settles into social distancing, people are turning to digital media and entertainment to keep themselves busy. This means you have a fairly captive audience, but it also means that competition will be fierce and channels will be saturated. Your success through a global crisis will rely much on your ability to differentiate what you say, and how you say it. True communication is measured by the response you get.