Why What We Do Matters

Let’s play a game. 

Take a sip of your coffee/water/tea/alcoholic beverage (it’s quarantine life, no judgment here) if you’ve heard one of these recently: 

“We’re waiting and monitoring the situation closely before moving forward”

“We’re cutting our marketing and communications budget by 90%”

“We’ll need to reevaluate our scope of work based on recent events”

Ok, now let me ask you, how many times in your personal life have you kept a friend who didn’t value you or waited and watched a bad relationship spiral out?

Or allowed a guy at the end of a date, to look at you and say, “In the wake of recent events, I’m thinking we should cut the date short and reevaluate if I’m paying.” 

Maybe you’ve had this experience and likely didn’t feel great about it after.

So, as public relations and marketing consultants, how are we reacting?​ We’re cutting costs, thus devaluing the quality of the work and allowing “working for free” to become our new reality.

It’s a tale as old as time that when a company is in crisis, the first thing to go is marketing and communications. According to the CMO Council, half of global marketing leaders said they were bracing for budget cuts and nearly 90 percent expect to make changes to their marketing plans.

A Marketing Week and Econsultancy study found similar results: 50 percent of UK brand marketers will be making budget cuts so that they can ‘live to fight another day,’ while 29 percent plan to ‘stay the course’ and maintain budgets.” Google slashed half of its marketing budget for the second half of the year and established a hiring freeze, and the list goes on. 

I recently suggested to our team that we put a moratorium on all scopes-of-work with current clients and start over. 

Why? Because the very nature of how our clients are operating shifted dramatically and thus so should our work with them. It’s less about selling, and more about supporting. The path forward isn’t about helping clients sleep at night. It’s ensuring they don’t, until they understand how important their voice is and how important it will be in the slow growth back to recovery. 

We are already starting to see this, with some of the country’s most dynamic leaders stepping up in ways we’ve never seen before. Vulnerability and empathy are paramount, lending to their authenticity and trust-building with customers and employees alike. 

And what do these leaders have in common? They engaged with the press; created marketing collateral and resources for customers; reconfigured their ad dollars; and developed creative content focused on empathetic, compelling messages, and imagery. 

Crisis uncovers real leaders, and, frankly, losers. 

The guy that can’t really commit to paying at the end of the date is the same kind of leader who can’t commit when he’s in a crisis…and yet that is what inevitably leads to contraction, not change, and innovation.

Do you think any of those leaders cut marketing staff? And even if they did, they’ll bounce back much faster and more easily than anyone, because they understood the value of communicating with their stakeholders.

And this can be done indirectly, by the way. EY recently stated that, “trust and purpose go hand-in-hand. If a company has earned the trust of its employees, it is more likely to earn the trust of its customers and more likely to optimize performance.”

Did anyone else see Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson’s message to his employees? It was heart-wrenching and real and will have everything to do with their inevitable resilience once people start booking hotels again.

What if there was a way to add value to your work and see your clients recover from a global pandemic more swiftly? The proof is in the pudding. 

The key to any good relationship is communication. 

And we – clients and our competitors –  simply can’t do this alone. We’re going to bring everyone down if we think beating each other on cost is the only way to survive. So, take another sip of that beverage and get to work.

Adrian Gianforti

Adrian Gianforti

Adrian joined the Proof Strategies team in January 2019 as the Senior Account Director for Foundations & Nonprofits. Her expertise in global communications and strategy serves international development, corporate social responsibility and sustainability clients who aspire to create positive change.

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