Maritime companies around the world are facing unprecedented and challenging times, with the spread of the new coronavirus preventing direct contact with existing and potential customers, suppliers, and colleagues. Tradeshows and conferences have been cancelled and many of you will be reading this from your home office.
The current situation is unlikely to resolve itself for sometime and if companies fail to adapt then further revenue losses can be expected, especially for European and US-based manufacturers in lockdown.
So what should companies be doing to market themselves in a post-coronavirus environment, where traditional marketing avenues are closed?
Firstly, don’t panic! Marketing budgets are often the first to go when the proverbial hits the fan. But don’t be hasty. You’ll need this budget to maintain global sales interest and keep your customers and suppliers informed. If you don’t maintain a market presence you could be forgotten about when the world starts up again.
These are now a vital tool in the marketing box of tricks and, if you haven’t already, you should be looking at holding online webinars, on a regular if not monthly basis, not least to inform customers and suppliers that you’re still in business and doing all you can to get your products and solutions to market.
You can also use this medium to raise issues and promote your business, executives, new solutions and services. Certainly those executives that would have been speaking at the conferences cancelled or postponed will have a platform from which to deliver their presentations.
If you get the content right and market the webinar effectively, you will be surprised how many log-in on the day and listen to what you have to say.
Many webinar platforms are very easy to manage and provide interactive features, such as opinion polls and Q&A’s, video sharing and downloadable presentations. Media agencies, conference producers and publishers are now offering this service, which can be a useful approach to marketing your offering directly to their subscription bases.
Increase your PR and media content output. This is important and helps ensure your voice continues to be heard, often to a much wider audience.
Print and online trade journalists and editors, many of whom work from their home offices anyway, still need to fill pages. So do start putting pen to paper with issue-based, informative and relevent content. They will be very thankful if the copy is good.
Remember, content is king. Editors are savvy and know what’s waffle and what’s not, so it is always best to appoint a specialist capable of unearthing your news (and you will have lots of stories to tell) and present it in a way that appeals to editors and their readers.
The writing of press releases, features, blogs and social media posts is an oft undervalued skill, so do seek advice or you may be clogging up journalists’ inboxes with crap and any subsequent mails will go straight to the trashcan.
While we are all fighting our own fires at the moment, journalists too will struggle if they are unable to source a story or are unable to contact you directly for a quote.
Many will still be interested in speaking with you if your story is newsworthy. So do consider 1-2-1 interviews with a media representative. Most are friendly bunch and happy to talk with you if your story whet’s the appetite.
But again, it is highly recommended that you get a media specialist to pave the way and sit in on the interview. Before any interview takes place, you should speak with someone capable of providing media training on the do’s and dont’s as this can prevent you saying something that you really wish you hadn’t.
LinkedIn, Twitter YouTube and WeChat are the primary social media platforms for maritime professionals. Most of you will be increasing your posts, shares, tweets and building up your social media position. But if you don’t have a social media platform yet, what are you thinking? Now is the time to really start looking at this medium as a way of directly reaching out to your customer base.
Revise your marketing plans and spend a fraction of this year’s conferencing and tradeshow budget on print, digital and online advertising. When you are unable to position your brand at trade shows and conferences, you can ensure you remain to be seen with some clever and impacting advertising copy.
Many online media platforms now offer video content which adds a new dimension. You may also be able to tie in a webinar or two to the overall advertising package.
In exceptional circumstances, you may be faced with a media crisis. Should this occur, identify the crisis, risks and teams capable of dealing with the media. Create a hierarchy for sharing information on the crisis and identify and appoint one person to act as the company spokesperson.
Ensure everyone understands who is fronting the incident media relations focus on the facts and not speculation. Make sure you have all the facts relating to the incident before media contact and decide whether to make a proactive or reative statement. No matter what questions are asked, get your points across calmly and accurately. Stick to the facts.
If fatalities are involved show compassion and condolence.
Do not treat the press as the enemy – they have a job to do and can help you. But never engage with the media without preparation.
Remember you are ALWAYS ‘on the record’.
Seaborne Communications can advise on all of the above and we would be happy to offer our thoughts and recommendations to help your business better position itself in these challenging times.