In tricky times, try to think tomorrow not today

18 March 2020 | 4 min read | News
Portrait photo of Paul MacKenzie-Cummins
Paul MacKenzie-Cummins

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I can remember the recession like it was just last week. It was pants. I mean, just awful. At the time, I was working in a PR and Content capacity for the two biggest job boards in the world. They were great – each was extremely ambitious and rather than trying to out manoeuvre the other, they held a healthy respect: co-ompetition is how I’d describe it.

Both businesses operated in 20+ countries. They were brands – big brands. Everyone who had ever hired someone knew who they were – they probably advertised their vacancies with one or the other, or even both of them.

But then the bottom fell out of the market. The credit crunch turned into a huge bite in the rear and both companies decided upon the same solution to cut costs at a time of tightening budgets: they stopped all their PR and Content Marketing activity with immediate effect.

From commenting on hiring trends and workplace issues, to supporting hiring managers and candidates with useful insights and advice on how to handle mass layoffs, or how to find a job in a recession for instance – the stuff that their customers needed most – both businesses ceased activity.

And it was to be at their detriment over the mid- to long- term.

When the green shoots of recovery return, how much ground could you have lost on your rivals?

The recession of course rescinded, but by that time these businesses had lost their pre-eminent status. They were no longer the top one and two portals in their market. In fact, they had slipped four or places and would soon drop out of the top 10 altogether – never to return to the heights they were once at.

So, what went wrong – after all, the recession saw many businesses take stock and make cost savings?

Turn the promotional taps down a little if you absolutely have to, but be wary of turning them off altogether – there has never been a day that lasts forever

This is true. However, whilst they slept their competition was wide awake.

Their competition could see that the current trading conditions would not last forever and it was only a matter of time that the market would rebound and their prospects would need the services they can provide. And so these competitors didn’t stop doing what they had been doing; rather, they did more of it. They upped their promotional efforts – they started commenting in the media on hiring trends, they built up a bank of informative, supportive and credible articles that were of value to their target markets.

These competitors challenged the market leaders and ensured that it was they who were front of mind for anything careers or HR related and when the recession ended and employer confidence returned, these competitors were the first port of call for the wave of new jobs that began to flood the market.

As for the two previous market leaders, well, they struggled to regain a decent foothold where they were once dominant and are a shadow of their former selves.

There are familiar undertones between the recession and what is happening today with the coronavirus and the key lesson that I learned from a decade ago should be observed today:

  • If you turn off the taps and stop getting your face and name in the right media
  • If you put a hold on creating the great content that can add real value to your clients and keep them loyal to you because you have helped them and provided solutions to the challenges they face, and
  • If you hold back on maintaining and building your online brand through social media engagement…

… you will struggle to get back to where you are now after the virus’s impact on the economy has ended.

But if you keep the taps flowing, even at a slightly reduced rate, then it will be you and your business who will win out.

Avoid knee jerk reactions if you can. Think tomorrow and next month, and look beyond today.