How to Protect Your Brand through Economic Ups & Downs

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Recently, I attended a Vistage All-City event where renowned economic forecaster Alan Beaulieu predicted a bull market through 2018, to be followed by a downturn in 2019. I am not an economist, but I do know two things. First, Beaulieu has a track record of being accurate 94 percent of the time, so we all better be ready. Second, in times of both economic growth and retraction, your brand is your organization’s greatest asset.

The best way to ensure your organization’s success, no matter the economic climate, is to strengthen and protect your brand through effective communication. When economic turmoil comes calling – and with the cyclical nature of the economy, it’s bound to – your brand is what will help sustain your organization, insulating and buffering it from the economic storm. Likewise, by strengthening and protecting your brand in times of prosperity, you can be prepared for rougher days ahead.

Let’s take a look at a few scenarios that you could face in the next five years – a period Beaulieu predicts will be a time of economic growth. How you prepare for and react to these scenarios will shape the future course of your business. Now is the time to think about the communications strategies you will employ to make the most of what’s ahead.

  1. You plan to sell your business. A business with little brand equity will generate little profit.  If selling your business is anywhere on the radar, you should be taking steps now to strengthen and protect your brand.
    
    

    What to do: Take a proactive approach to any threats to your brand that could derail your sale. Where are the biggest threats to your brand and reputation? What events could negatively impact your brand at a critical time? One example is reviewing the employee handbook, which plays a critical role. Make sure your team is prepared to respond quickly to these potential crises.

  2. Your organization is experiencing a period of high growth. Growing pains can strike any organization, and they can be a serious threat to your brand.  The best way to alleviate growing pains is to plan for them ahead of time.
    
    

    What to do: Create a proactive communications plan that targets your customers, employees and other key audiences. Start at the top with your CEO and leadership team moving down to all levels of your company while anticipating all potential crises. Think about the culture clashes that could occur as you grow through an acquisition strategy.  Consistent, personal and relevant communication with employees and customers will help the integration process go smoothly.

  3. You begin outsourcing work. While outsourcing can generate greater profits for an organization by capitalizing on economies of scale, it also presents challenges for ensuring quality control.
    
    

    What to do: Whether the people who work for your organization are your employees or someone else’s, they are your brand ambassadors. During the onboarding process, engage the CEO and leadership team of the company doing your outsourcing. Communicate your organization’s history and vision so that everyone is on the same page.

  4. You want to prepare for the next downturn. The next economic decline is just around the corner, according to Beaulieu. If you don’t know the strength of your organization’s brand, you are leaving yourself vulnerable to the whims of the economy.
    
    

    What to do: Evaluate your organization’s brand.  Do you have a brand? What is your company’s “why?” How much brand equity have you built? Identify your brand’s strengths and weaknesses, and fill in the gaps.

While there is little any of us can do to control the economy, there is a lot we can do to anticipate and prepare for its cyclical ups and downs. By thinking ahead and planning for the future, you can communicate in ways that position you to profit during economic highs and protect you against the lows.

For those of you who are curious about Beaulieu’s predictions, his new book, “Prosperity in the Age of Decline: How to Lead your Business and Preserve Wealth through the Coming Business Cycles,” will be released in July by Wiley Press. Can’t wait until July? Visit his website: www.itreconomics.com.

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Brands are both valuable and vulnerable, so smart leaders work hard to protect them. This blog is a go-to resource for ideas, approaches and the latest news on safeguarding and increasing the value of your company’s most important asset. Subscribe below to get regular updates on what we’re posting.
Becky Powell-Schwartz, Founder & CEO