In this guest post, founder of Yellowpanda PR Digital, Amanda Williams (main photo), says COVID-19 is already impacting us all and comms professionals should be planning their strategies now…
With coronavirus wiping trillions from the global economy, it’s an understatement to say businesses everywhere need to be prepared for the ongoing fallout.
My advice to all business is to plan key messages now and keep communication flowing as the impact of coronavirus continues to reverberate.
The big end of town, with their communication departments and strategists, are likely well ahead of the game, but small and medium size businesses also need to get on the front foot.
It’s no surprise many Australian businesses are beginning to feel the pinch of supply problems with the Chinese manufacturing sector, responsible for a third of all global production, hit by factory closures and export chain breakdown.
The Chinese government’s official measure of its manufacturing output – the Purchasing Managers’ Index or PMI – fell at a record rate in February, coming in at 35.7 from a rating of 50 in January.
That’s a bigger hit than the Global Financial Crisis more than a decade ago.
When I asked one of my building industry clients how their operation was faring in the current climate, they reported it was largely unaffected because manufacturing of their high-end product was done in Australia.
It’s certainly a fine opportunity for local manufacturers to communicate their “Made in Australia” credentials, highlighting they are ready to do business despite supply issues in the broader market.
The key is to tread lightly. Already coronavirus has triggered some unsavoury xenophobic sentiments so be sensitive in your messaging.
No doubt local manufacturers have swum against the tide long enough so an opportunity to capitalise on an unforeseen competitive advantage will not be harshly judged.
But if your business is already being squeezed by coronavirus fallout, as we’re seeing play out in the tourism industry, it’s important to stay positively engaged with the market.
You need to engender confidence in your business and be agile in identifying other market openings or opportunities in the meantime.
A good example is the “holiday at home” push which was floated after the bushfire crisis but looks set to gain traction with Australians unsure of what’s ahead with overseas travel restrictions.
At present, the travel industry reports some cancellation of short-term overseas travel, largely to Asia, but concedes 2020 will be a lean year as many Australians reconsider their international holiday plans.
The upshot is a captive market for domestic travel so operators should make their play for locals and interstate visitors who’ll be looking for Australian holiday experiences this year.
Be proactive and optimistic in your messaging. It will stamp your business as a leader in the face of uncertainty and that can carry cache well into the future.
But in the race to get your messages out, don’t forget the importance of internal communication as well.
It’s good practice in uncertain times for all businesses to reassure employees that plans are in place and any future responses to commercial challenges have been pre-empted rather than made on the run.
Confidence, like charity, should begin at home.
While I don’t have all the answers as to how individual businesses should navigate the way ahead, a clear communication strategy should be key in riding out, perhaps even rising above, the coronavirus curve ball.
Very few would have factored its impact into their business projections. We can all be forgiven for that, but we can’t be forgiven for not acting now to get our strategies in place.
The take-home advice is to keep communication channels open.
A clear message will be equated to confidence in your business and, in uncertain times, that perception may just be the self-fulfilling prophecy that’s needed.
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