We live in times of crisis. In other words, times of change. In situations like the current one, communication takes on greater importance. Internal, external, informal and corporate communication. All types of communication can help to face the crisis in one way or another. All the agents involved in the communication process take on a renewed protagonism. But what should be done? What position should be taken? What is the situation?
Recently, José Manuel Velasco, president of the Association of Directors of Communication (DIRCOM), presented a Decalogue of Communication against the Crisis -recommendations for DIRCOMs to successfully face communication in the current economic situation-. During the event, he alluded to a fact that has been confirmed by numerous studies: the positive correlation between investment in communication and brand value; corporate brand value, personal brand value. In his opinion, “companies that invest in communication now increase their market share”. The usual practice of cutting back on investment in communication in times of crisis is wrong, as this may be precisely the best time to take advantage of the new opportunities offered by a market in which all competitors are less present.
But what do the professionals who deal with the joys and sorrows of communication on a daily basis have to say about it? Once again this year, Revista de Comunicación has wanted to gauge the opinion of the experts. To do so, we have surveyed a group of representatives of the main Spanish Communication Agencies. We wanted to know their opinions on three hot topics: the economic and financial crisis, specialisation and technology.
How has the crisis impacted the communication strategies of Spanish companies?
In the short term (operational planning), when facing an adverse environment, it is more important to make the right decisions in terms of costs, volume of activity and price. An analysis that is simplistic in the extreme would lead us to two opposing attitudes in the face of the crisis. On the one hand, we would have a defensive strategy, the most usual one. The company considers that the only variable it can control is costs and therefore, in order to weather the storm, it directs all its efforts to reducing them, both fixed and variable. Communication is reduced to the point of being non-existent and, normally, the quality of products and services suffers, and with it the image.
At the other extreme is the offensive strategy. Faced with a generalised fall in sales, the company reacts with an aggressive pricing and communication policy, which allows it to gain market share from its competitors and grab the “orphan customers” left by companies that are unable to overcome the crisis. In its struggle to increase turnover at the expense of its competitors, price cuts and promotions follow one after the other, leading to a generalised reduction in gross margin and, consequently, to a need for more volume.
This spiral further complicates the situation of companies that have “entrenched themselves” in cost containment and, now unable to react, can only hope that the adverse situation does not last too long. In the end, some (unfortunately not all) will overcome the crisis. But those that opted for an offensive strategy, at the moment of recovery, will be in a position to capitalise on the image generated at the cost of the crisis.
Do you see specialisation as a clear future trend for communication agencies?
For us, specialisation is an ethical necessity; and this is a strategic positioning. In this way, our specialisation in business communication and public relations allows us, among other things: not to be in competition with advertising, media, marketing, events, research companies…, who see us as their partner; to offer our clients, solely and exclusively, what we know how to do as well as the best; not to have to discriminate against any media for any reason and, much less, for aspects related to the profitability of the investment; …
On the other hand, our non-specialisation in a specific sector of activity allows us to offer real exclusivity to our clients and a wide range of information to the media.
How have new technologies affected the design of the new communication plans?
Every day, technological cycles follow one another at a faster pace, and what is new today is basic tomorrow and obsolete the day after. Adapting to innovations more quickly than the competition brings undoubted competitive advantages: means for the development of more creative and personalised media, which give strength and originality to the message; efficient tools for collecting and managing information, which allow us to keep customers informed and develop original, attractive and up-to-date content; means of communication, which allow us to integrate people from other countries into work teams to be more effective and efficient; … are some examples of this.
In this sense, online communication strategies are of particular importance. The Internet has become a priority medium, as important as any other. Every day, more and more clients demand that our communication and public relations strategy includes techniques that allow the company, its brands and its products to be positioned on the Internet and, above all, allow them to climb up the search engine rankings. If they can’t find you, you don’t exist. On the other hand, an online work team is in charge of supervising the opinions about the client that are posted on the net, giving an immediate response to most of them. When a conflict is detected, the information is sent to a “committee” that analyses it and proposes a solution or response which, once approved by the client, is incorporated into the action manual.