The last couple of years have been challenging for business. Not only have we faced a global pandemic and the invasion of Ukraine, with resulting supply chain disruptions, shortages of workers and, more recently, high rates of inflation and rising interest rates, now we find ourselves on the brink of the first real global recession in 13 years.
Household budgets are being tightened and corporate revenues are down. Employees and investors are nervous. Businesses are trimming expenses and putting major investments on hold.
In this challenging environment, how should businesses communicate?
While businesses may be tempted to remain tight-lipped about challenges and spending cuts, a more transparent approach is preferable. Acknowledge the economic challenges you face and explain your approach to navigating expected rough waters. Through clear explanations, you will instill confidence among your stakeholders and build a climate of trust.
Even if your financial straits are dire and your business needs to restructure, open channels of communication remain essential. For more on this topic, click here.
Investors (and stock analysts) wish to see that the company in which they have invested (or that they follow) is capable of sustaining operations through difficult times.
Employees require reassurance. Challenging times demand an empathetic open-door approach to human resource management. Now is the time to build a supportive corporate culture to instill loyalty among the troops. Even if we fall into recession, the current shortage of qualified labour is unlikely to dissipate. You don’t want your best employees to jump ship for the competition. Moreover, in today’s hybrid work environment, employers face the additional challenge of keeping a remote workforce engaged.
Long-term thinking is warranted. Workers will remember how their employer treated them in tough times. That emotional response reflects your employer brand. Engaged employees are loyal employees. You must not downplay the severity of a recession, but rather explain what you are doing to surmount it. Through your words and actions, demonstrate what differentiates you from other employers. An open approach will create a climate of trust within your team.
Customers must not be forgotten. Even if they are tempted to cut down on personal spending, that is no excuse to cut communication with them. Explain why you’ve had to raise prices. Maintain a dialogue with your clientele. While they may have tightened their budgets, as soon the economy recovers, they will prove loyal and resume purchasing from you, rather than your competitors.
Never forget that communication is a two-way street. Listening to your customer base is at least as important as speaking to it. Dialogue need not be costly. Social media channels permit businesses to take the pulse of their followers and to respond to customer concerns in real time.
Strategic communications for tough economic times
Position your executives through regular publication of thought-leadership pieces. This will position your company as the go-to resource for information in your industry. Show leadership by being a conversation starter.
Consistent communication is best for the long term. Be the brand that is always there—in good times and in bad—for those who rely on your company, whether for goods, services, employment, or a share of the profits.
In these challenging economic times, internal and external communications will require skill, a deep understanding of the complex issues at play, and sensitivity. From one end of the country to the other, NATIONAL’s team of experts can help you navigate through changes.