Is Your Brand Messaging Recession-Ready?

By Amanda Munroe, SVP, Technology Practice

For the past year and half, we’ve seen news about the Great Resignation splashed across nearly every publication. In our Workplace Tech and Services practice at SHIFT, we’ve worked with clients on building up narratives around the resulting labor shortage and what it means to the American worker, workplace technology adoption and the future of work.

We’ve had great success in tying our clients’ overarching narrative and purpose to the tight labor market — with brand messaging such as championing fair chance hiring to expand talent pools, advocating a shift towards skills credentials vs. college degree requirements, touting the role internal mobility plays in employee retention — and in placing hundreds of stories in Fortune, Fast Company, Inc, CNBC and more, all of which helped increase awareness, SEO and lead generation. 

But we’re planning for a change in the narrative. While the labor shortage is still having an impact (and we’re still telling those stories), just this week, one of Wall Street’s biggest harbingers of a downturn, the yield curve, is sending signals — “stronger than it has been since late 2000” — of an economic decline.

With this, we can anticipate a different look and feel to the labor market. During the “Great Recession” of 2008, nearly eight million people lost their jobs.

For all companies, but especially those that deliver technology and services for the workforce, now is the time to prepare. And that includes adapting their external communications strategy.

A Recession-Ready External Narrative

Retaining and attracting top talent will always be critical, even during a recession. However, the bigger workplace drivers will be on reskilling and upskilling talent out of roles that are no longer needed, employee engagement and productivity during uncertain times, engaging a remote workforce (now driven less by employee demands for flexibility and more an economic reality of lower wages outside expensive cities), the inequitable impact recessions have on underrepresented employee populations, and the need for workers to stay marketable through new skills and credentials, among others.

For companies outside of workplace tech and services, lines of messaging around the recession will look different but still be important. To prepare for this change in narrative, companies should:

  1. Refresh media and brand messaging with unique themes that best describe the company’s differentiators, unique points of view and higher purpose for solving issues created by a recession; pitch the media before they’re inundated with these angles
  2. Review SEO keywords and determine the best recession-centric targets for organic and paid
  3. Create new website copy that is SEO-optimized around emerging interests and search behaviors
  4. Develop and share content (blog posts, reports, research, video) that show how the company’s tech and services fit into the recession narrative; share those over social media to drive traffic, engagement and awareness
  5. Partner with a survey vendor to gather workforce and employer data and seed the market with proprietary research about sentiment, behavioral changes and perspectives leading into the recession
  6. Create a crisis communications plan that addresses financial and operational changes (layoffs, furloughs, hiring freezes, office closures, product development pauses and other cost-cutting measures)

It’s been said, “failing to plan is planning to fail.” Should a recession hit, the narrative around the labor market and the impact it has on businesses, the workforce and our communities will undoubtedly change. Every kind of company, but especially workplace tech and services providers, would be wise to get ahead of the changing tide and communicate differently to their audiences, before it’s too late.

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