Picture: Supplied
Picture: Supplied

In 2020, Covid resulted in widespread panic, business shutdowns and unprecedented job losses, forcing companies and employees to adopt a radically different way of working. SA’s media and communications industries were hit hard, with many institutions closing their doors for good. Businesses that survived did so due to their ability to respond quickly to the challenge with a masterful ability to adapt, evolve and modify offerings, products or services and business processes.

In a survey conducted by MarkLives and HaveYouHeard, 61% of participating agencies and employees noted a decline in agency billings, 34% showed a decrease in work commissioned or briefed, 29% claimed a decline in staff morale, 18% reported retrenchments or salary cuts, and 10% reported decreased internal communication.

To achieve stability and growth, consider adopting the following principles.

A quick pivot

Take the view that the pandemic is not a death knell, but rather an opportunity to be brave and quickly adjust client campaigns. Business development comes not only from reputation management but also the new burst into digital and a strong focus on internal communications. Consumers want the news 24/7 and for that, you need rapid and innovative thinking to ensure that content is relevant, relatable and respectful.

Every firm became a crisis firm

The pandemic turned nearly every communicator into a crisis communications consultant, as this skill set shifted from being highly specialised to an expectation of every communications pro. Without question, the pandemic demanded pace – the kind of pace that communications experts are probably better placed to deliver. It offered an opportunity to expand skills and

find new solutions. It also opened the door to guiding clients through their own crises, thereby forging a stronger bond based on trust.

Diversify or die

Key to business success is commitment to diversification – of employees, business offerings, strategies and your business footprint. Strategise ways to expand your offering into different but related projects. Hunt for opportunities either locally or abroad where your business can synergise with other operations to create a mutually beneficial partnership and opportunities for growth. As economic uncertainty rockets, retainers will become less prevalent and quick projects that yield results will become the new normal that will allow agencies to show their value and keep potential clients coming back for more. Innovation is the key here: find creative solutions for these short-term projects that will showcase your team’s ability to provide value that they can turn to in the future.

Find and nurture talent

Find the best talent with the right skills, rather than hiring for the sake of boosting numbers. Utilise available skills in growing business units, upskill in new areas, make strategic hires and promote up-and-coming young talent into managerial roles. Your diversified business channels could demand skills that you wouldn’t ordinarily use in your primary business, so don’t be afraid to make those appointments and develop your new business areas further.

 Make every relationship count

Take every single client relationship seriously, collaborate on possible solutions, increase efficiencies and improve communications. Be there when they need you and be an adviser through their business struggles, offering solutions that prove your value to them. This is an effective way to retain your client base and attract new clients.

 Though 2020 will be forever remembered for its endless struggles, it spurred many positive changes throughout the business world, and companies will indeed be held to a higher standard. The communications industry joins other professions in a new era of ethical business practices and community engagement, and the public will expect nothing less as the pandemic accelerates change at a near unimaginable pace.

  • Steve Powell is the founding partner and CEO at Eclipse Communications. In 2020, Eclipse Communications was the FM AdFocus Public Relations of the Year winner.


The big take-out:

Key to business success is commitment to diversification – of employees, business offerings, strategies and your business footprint


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