Marketing and PR through the Coronavirus Crisis

Claire Williamson

26 March, 2020

“We need to market now for the good of mankind” - Mark Ritson

Coronavirus is testing businesses to the limit. It has led to a shutdown of large parts of the economy, creating difficult economic choices for organisations looking to save money and manage the impact of a crisis that now looks to spin out for months, not weeks.

In times of uncertainty, conservative approaches to marketing become the status quo. Last week, Marketing Week and eConsultancy surveyed 887 UK brand marketers and found that 60 per cent have delayed or are reviewing their budget commitments. A further 55 per cent have paused product or service launches. In some situations, this is going to be the right thing to do. For B2B technology companies, however, it could be precisely the wrong thing.

Renowned marketer Mark Ritson has urged organisations to “think long-term and keep building their brands”, and this is sage advice for those in B2B technology. Talking about B2B technology marketing and PR when we are in the midst of a global pandemic can seem somewhat “inconsequential”. However, there are plenty of reasons to keep the marketing plates spinning.

Firstly, marketing – done well – helps businesses with their bottom line. Take that away and, suddenly, there’s a vacuum. The PR and marketing channels that were there before the outbreak will continue to exist. For competitors, the marketing void that is inevitably left behind becomes easy for them to fill.

Secondly, most good technology companies build their product and services around very real needs and very real problems. Of course, these needs won’t vanish overnight. In many cases, depending on the solution, needs will increase. A solution, for example, which may help system admins automate their increasing workload, or one which may help to deliver faster data insights to clinical teams, is now more relevant than ever. 

So what can marketing do now? It’s important to really think about where your precious budget is being spent and what it will deliver in the long term, not just immediately in this uncertain time. The days of quick wins are over. An outbound strategy isn’t going to fly right now, nor is field marketing. People are at home, they have shut the doors, they have left their desk phones. They are online.

During a period of uncertainty, it is what brands do today that will set them up for success when the situation has passed. Build brand awareness and reputation online. Present helpful and relevant information for people searching for solutions your product or service provides. Become a trusted advisor for your clients, helping them during this existential crisis.

Spending on the right things and proving value has always been important. Now it is business-critical.