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As the coronavirus crisis has risen-up the public agenda, Cornerstone has invested time and resources across all our departments into developing responsive marketing and communications strategies for various clients operating across a range of sectors who want to stay engaged with their target consumer or business audiences over coming weeks.
We acted swiftly to speak to our clients and identify their priorities. Then we designed marketing and communications plans to support them through the next few months.
Our communications and marketing plans will help them cope with the immediate challenges they face, such as increased customer demand for up-to-date information, sales or enquiries issues linked to temporary restrictions on consumer and business activities.
In addition, our strategies and full range of services will provide clients with a strong platform to bounce back when restrictions are eased and wider economic activity revives.
The short-term impact of coronavirus will doubtless be widespread, dramatic and pronounced in many ways. I don’t want to trivialise this in any way. Nonetheless, it’s also worth remembering that the restrictions will be temporary and will be eased, amended or ended over time.
Shorter-term restrictions could differentiate the coronavirus crisis to previous economic shocks in the past, such as the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak of 2001. That crisis led to prolonged economic, travel and social restrictions for over a year and cost the UK an estimated £8 billion.
Millions of animals were slaughtered and communities in rural towns and villages faced severe restrictions for many, many months. The lengthy restrictions impacted on multiple business sectors including farming, food, retail, open air markets, tourism, hospitality, horse racing, motor sport, imports and exports, and local media.
I worked as a newspaper journalist at the time in Northumberland and Cumbria, which were among the worst-hit regions of the UK. Despite the hardship, heartache and restrictions, businesses (including newspapers) and communities had to continue and adapt.
The legacy included widespread innovation in products, services, marketing and communications for thousands of businesses across the UK. Innovations included farm diversification, the rise of local farmers and growers’ markets, regeneration of local high streets, better marketing of local produce and brands, fairer prices, improved communication and relationships between producers, distributors, retailers and consumers, and the rise of many new start-ups and challenger-businesses which aimed to replace old methods and outdated businesses.
So, periods of adversity require the need for urgent action and planning along with the need for reflection and consideration of longer-term business investment and opportunities for when recovery comes along. Change is constant. Nothing stays the same.
In the United States, Coca-Cola first saw the opportunity for significant growth during the long depression years of the early 20th century. The drinks brand heavily promoted itself during the downturn while competitors withdrew from marketing activity and public awareness.
More recently in the UK, Coca-Cola flourished here during the post-credit crunch recession of the late 2000s. Its British sales broke the £1billion barrier in 2010 as other sectors struggled. Coca-Cola said the UK boom showed that when times are tough, quality and trust matter even more to consumers. It said history showed that recessions, no matter how deep, do pass and it is crucial to keep investing both in marketing and preparing for recovery.
As mentioned earlier, I don’t want to diminish the current challenges. On a personal note, I have been made redundant a number of times and also experienced pay cuts, redeployment and relocation at various points in my working life across different industries because of recessions, business closures or restructuring. These experiences were hugely stressful and I wish them upon nobody. But it’s also true that I have also taken new routes and found unexpected opportunities following adversity, including my current role with Cornerstone.
With coronavirus, we are experiencing complex circumstances and our responses need to be fully-considered and nuanced for the short, medium and longer terms.
As mentioned, Cornerstone is working hard with our clients to ensure they overcome the current difficulties and are prepared for the future recovery.
Our clients include private businesses, public authorities and community interest organisations.
They are active in sectors including leisure and wellbeing, health, NHS, pharmaceuticals, scientific and laboratory equipment, manufacturing, distribution, precision engineering, structural and civil engineering, property, tourism, arts and culture.
Practically, we are offering them our full range of marketing strategy, website, digital media, design and PR services to connect with their target audiences through these challenging times and then beyond.
At this time, consumer and business audiences are seeking useful information, clarity, advice and reassurance from trusted sources. Traditional and digital media channels are packed with news and information. There are also rumours, errors, wrong information, malicious content and fake news in circulation. So, it’s vitally important that your business or organisation is being seen, heard and promoted accurately and that your reputation is being protected.
Our full range of services distinguishes us from many other agencies which tend to focus on one area, such as design or digital work. We can support and promote our clients across all channels including website, social media, email campaigns, advertising design and copywriting services which includes news releases for clients to newspapers, consumer and business magazines and websites, radio and TV.
Currently, priority messages have been focused on essential information and updates for customers, suppliers, employees and the wider community. This has included updates on business opening hours and operations, payments and financial arrangements, or temporary health and safety measures linked to coronavirus.
So instead of cutting back or doing the absolute minimum, our clients are playing a proactive role in protecting and investing in their businesses for the future while also engaging with the wider community at this time. We are helping them on all fronts across all channels.
Get in touch to see how we can help your business or organisation do the same.
By Robbie MacDonald.
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