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How B2B firms can harness PR to prepare for the next recession

by | Jun 25, 2018 | Analysis, Public Relations

As brands and organizations look beyond the next few quarters, dark clouds may be on the horizon.

According to JPMorgan’s probability model, there is an 18 percent chance of an economic recession during the next year, increasing to 52 percent within the next two years and 72 percent by 2021.

Depending on the severity and duration of a recession, your customers and business partners trust that you will keep them abreast of developments as times get tough, and work to preserve the relationship. Consistent, strategic communications is the most effective way to demonstrate your value to customers during a downturn.

How B2B firms can harness PR to prepare for the next recession

With that in mind, here are a few communications strategies for companies to execute if a recession hits:

Over-communicate with your customers

When a recession hits, the natural inclination for companies is to “go quiet.” This is the wrong reaction. Rather, during a recession brand managers need to over-communicate with their clients/partners/vendors and provide guidance for how your customers can mitigate the damage. B-to-B companies need to see the opportunity to strengthen existing relationships and get a leg up on competitors.

Companies have myriad communications tools at their disposal to help assuage concerns among customers and partners, including email, direct mail, social media channels, and online videos. All of these are potential components in a cohesive strategy. The last thing you want is for your customers to think you’re operating in a vacuum during a downturn. Taking full advantage of communications tools—both online and offline—helps prevent that from happening

Raise the CEO’s voice

It’s crucial that customers hear directly from the company’s CEO and other senior executives about how the firm is continuing to perform, alongside the stream of regular communications, as opposed to middle managers or spokespeople. You should consider more frequent communication from top brass to your most valuable customers and partners, as well as a higher level of visibility overall.

Bolster employee communications

When grappling with a recession, there’s a bigger responsibility on communications executives to maintain the ties that bind with employees and keep them apprised of developments. A recession is also an opportune time to encourage the company’s brand ambassadors to engage their fellow employees, assuage concerns and provide some much-needed support. Brand ambassadors should organize group meetings to get a better sense of what employees are thinking regarding the recession and share those thoughts to upper management.

Tell the story of how the company weathered the last recession

In helping clients and partners maintain confidence in your business, past may be prologue. Tell clients and prospects how the company managed the last downturn, and how it responded once the economy bounced back. This provides context about recessionary cycles but, perhaps more important, shows customers that the company has been through this before and has a steady hand at the tiller.

Hoping the recession is short-lived is not a communications strategy. Clients will want to hear from you. Engage clients about their recessionary concerns. Don’t sit still. Anticipate the recession, and communicate the company’s stance accordingly.

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Charlyn Lusk
Charlyn Lusk is Managing Director at Stanton, a New York-based communications firm specializing in financial communications.

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