I was fortunate enough to recently enjoy two weeks’ holiday and equally lucky to visit the West Coast of the US, which is home to my extended family. While endeavouring to switch off from work, the break did give me some time to reflect on the fact that, barring an economic miracle, a recession is heading our way. Perhaps it was the warm glow of Californian sunshine but I did think that although we are facing a pretty tough winter, we do have the comparative advantage of actually seeing it coming. I would argue that the economic hits of the Covid Pandemic and the Financial Crisis were bolts from the blue for many people and certainly caught the communications community relatively unprepared.
I worked through the financial crisis in communications at a global law firm and it really does feel like a lifetime ago in the way the communications landscape has developed so much over the last twelve or thirteen years. Print was still king then which made the news cycle relatively easy to navigate. You had Facebook but social media hadn’t really penetrated the corporate environment. Internal comms felt like a bit of an afterthought – as long as the press was onside then you were seen to be doing your job well.
Covid was a different matter entirely. Effective and empathetic internal communications quickly rose to the top of the agenda and, certainly in the legal sector, technology was harnessed pretty rapidly to connect with a workforce that was suddenly forced to work from home. A steady stream of issues had to be effectively addressed and dealt with by all the big firms – notably whether or not to furlough, redundancies, pay cuts and, more positively, whether Covid bonuses would be awarded once things started to improve.
Although in real economic terms the upcoming winter will feel more like the financial crisis or even the earlier downturn at the beginning of the 90s than the ‘artificial’ Covid recession, communications professionals can absolutely channel their experience gained from working through Covid into preparing for what will be a tough period ahead. Byfield will be organising an informal event in September for communications heads at our clients and firms we know, to share our experience and look ahead to how we are going to tackle what lies ahead. Look out for details!