Comms during a cost of living crisis

There have been several well-used phrases of the decade (so far) but overall it is safe to say that the 2020s are very much “unprecedented times”. From, Covid, a global pandemic, the fuel crisis and destructive reminders of climate change things were already feeling relatively gloomy And that’s before you add in the looming predicted global recession and the news delivered in Jeremy Hunt’s Autumn budget.   With the UK technically already in recession and a fall in UK living standards, families are going to be hit hard in the UK this winter and so the “cost of living crisis” becomes the latest talking point.

For businesses, navigating these issues means dodging pitfalls whilst continuing to provide information about brands and campaigns. There are simple elements to consider when you want to send out a press release or post on a social channel.

Always be aware of the news agenda

Nothing can cause online uproar and brand damage more than saying something that’s seen as inconsiderate. For example, the cost of living crisis means that households and businesses are facing exponentially more expensive energy bills; so how can you balance your news with providing helpful content? For example, information on how to extend the lifespan of products that customers may already own. This could also be a time to promote local community services, such as repair cafes where small household products can be repaired, or to offer additional advice to your customers via customer care channels.

Consider bringing in external experts…

If you want to have a helpful voice in this situation, it is worth looking to engage a relevant and media friendly authoritative voice to work with you to create content and undertake interviews on this subject. Right now, brands may not be the most trusted source for information – the natural cynicism of the public to hearing from brands is based around the belief that you simply want to sell more, so an external voice could help.

… and talk sector not brand

It is important that you consider the industry that you’re in rather than your brand alone – provide advice and support that can help anyone struggling with costs rather than just your customers or potential customers, instead of only promoting your own brand all the time (sometimes is fine though!).

When in doubt, don’t put it out

If you’re not sure if you’ve got the tone of a social post right or whether your release is timely and relevant, don’t put it out there. Right now, people don’t want to hear about gigantic profits or big new hires when jobs and money are scarce.

It is important to have a range of views on this and to give authority to your comms team who will be on the forefront of the news agenda. If you don’t have a comms team, then take advice from your PR agency whose objective, yet supportive, stance can be useful.

Keep your staff in mind

Don’t forget your staff at all levels are also impacted by the current financial crisis. Don’t make token gestures – no one will be grateful for a few quid behind a bar on a staff night out and we know some companies where their staff are saying thank you but a huge Christmas party is not the right thing to do this year. If you have a bonus scheme, make it clear when that is coming and what is due. Also consider sharing information for helplines or support they can access.

Create a taskforce

Comms can generally be quite flexible but there are certain things that have to be shared at certain times. For example, if you’re a listed company and need to announce financials, this will have to happen within a certain timeframe. In the current climate, it could be worth creating a comms taskforce who can work together to ensure that internal and external comms are aligned or at least not contradicting each other. This group should be senior team members from functions such as HR, comms and marketing, sales, and investor relations, with a direct board level contact for sign off and should be mandated to meet regularly as the situation remains.

Support your communities

Local community groups and charities will suffer extensively as individuals and businesses are no longer providing as much financial support. Making financial donations to charities may not work for every company but perhaps providing meeting rooms or spaces for events is a way you can show support and create a positive environment. Alternatively, look into offering your employees’ time and services as volunteers for community projects they feel passionate about.

If you’re reading this and think a conversation would be useful then do reach out.  Our team has worked with clients across many different sectors including charities (and our Managing Director, Joanna is herself a Trustee) so we’d be happy to share our thoughts on how you might need to reconsider your comms in these (even more) unprecedented times.