January 30, 2022 marked the sad anniversary of an unprecedented health crisis that has profoundly disrupted our societies. Two years of struggle against a multifaceted crisis, both health and economic, but also socio-political, forcing our populations, our territories and our economies to survive in a difficult and uncertain context. Two years of resilience, solidarity, innovation and transformation, in which the informal sector, in particular, has been able to redouble its efforts and demonstrate its agility in order to reinvent itself and keep moving forward. But also two years that have allowed many of you, institutions, companies and large groups to approach crises differently, to consider them as opportunities to rethink your organization in depth and strengthen your development strategy.
However, one question persists for some actors: while some perceive communication as a real strategic issue, others still too often reduce it to a simple adjustment variable. So in the face of storms, should you continue to invest in your communication? Decoding and analysis.
Communication, a simple adjustment variable?
The phenomenon is far from new. When an external and generalized crisis occurs, the response mechanisms used by companies to adapt remain generally the same: identify and understand the causes of the crisis, develop scenarios to prevent a potentially negative impact and anticipate the consequences in the short and long term. In the end, put in place concrete measures to enable your company to survive. Many of you mechanically decide to review budgets downwards, and very often, it is communication that will be impacted or even suppressed! Indeed, it didn’t take long for the effects of the covid-19 crisis to be felt: in March 2020, the global advertising market was already revising its annual forecasts downwards, to the tune of 20 billion dollars. The reason? Even today, communication is wrongly considered as a simple adjustment variable, with which it becomes possible to make savings and invest the funds elsewhere, while waiting for the economic recovery. A mistake that can prove fatal, for three main reasons.
In the short term, a necessary communication
To communicate is to exist. It is important to show that you are always present, available, alert and actively listening to each of the actors in your immediate environment. As an organization, you must keep in mind that if you are facing the consequences of a crisis head-on, your entire ecosystem is also confronted with it. It is therefore your responsibility to accompany your various stakeholders as best as possible and to explain concretely what is being put in place to overcome the crisis. Above all, reassure and consolidate the relationship of trust, so precious for a company. To stop communicating is also to take the risk of losing all the investment in communication made in the past and to jeopardize some of your achievements. Not being visible, not explaining what you do, not highlighting the impact of your achievements, not making the issues you address more concrete, means “making your action and your role in the development of our economies invisible”. But also, to leave room for those who will undoubtedly continue to communicate: your competitors… Because beyond the inequalities, the crisis of the covid-19 has also exacerbated a phenomenon, that of the reinforcement of your competitive environment: it is the organizations which will show resilience which will manage to ensure, consolidate and perpetuate their place on the market.
The human factor, a vector of communication that gives meaning to your commitment
Another major variable to take into consideration is the necessary commitment of organizations. Corporate social, societal and environmental responsibility is no longer an option, it is now a real prerequisite, an imperative that each organization must consider as central to the orientation of its development strategy. Here again, more than ever in times of crisis, you owe it to yourself to communicate on your commitments. But beware: it is the impact and results that must be at the heart of your messages. An impact rooted in your territories, for the benefit of your targets, and results that respond to the specific problems of the environment in which you operate, without falling into the dreaded greenwashing, which is no longer forgiven. Companies can and must do better.
So in concrete terms, how do you stay present?
If we look at the long term, the need to communicate in times of crisis becomes difficult to argue with: only companies that continue to invest in their communication will be in a strong position on the market. Those who will have made the bet of endurance. We don’t know how long a crisis can last and how it will evolve: which company can take the risk today of not communicating, without any visibility? And on the other hand, the investment you think you are saving by not communicating will be lost when you want to regain your visibility with your stakeholders. You will have to try to “make up” for this period of silence and spend time (and therefore money!) justifying this absence, before you can hope to regain a place on the public and media scene. Communicating today means communicating with your collaborators and your ecosystem, not only to ensure your visibility in the short term, but to consolidate your presence and your impact tomorrow.
How can you ensure this continuity and make this long-term bet?
Above all, do not consider that communication is only about advertising or buying space in the media. There are as many ways to communicate as there are messages, which represents as many opportunities to position your organization. Here are a few ideas: consolidate your positioning in the market by adapting your messages and developing a strategy to explain your action and impact in concrete terms, to share your vision and ambition, and to differentiate yourself. The famous Who – What – How – Why. Capitalize on your digital platforms: create original content that fits into your message strategy and work on the link of trust and proximity with your stakeholders. Illustrate and enhance your impact by speaking out on the issues raised by the crisis and highlighting how your action provides a concrete response to the problems identified. Consider your employees and partners: involve them in your company project, gather them around a common vision and allow them to project themselves in the long term, by your side. Finally, crisis or not, continue to believe in your company and in the project you are carrying through it. Continue to be involved with those who contribute to its growth on a daily basis. Continue to promote your action to your ecosystem. Because the stakes are real: highlighting what you do means taking the risk of inspiring others to change the narrative of our continent together.