Originally published in the Boulder Daily Camera and the Longmont Daily Times-Call.

In 2009 I wrote what would turn out to be one of my most read, most re-published columns ever. It hit home with many people, and was shared with businesses and individuals throughout the country. A news organization even had a copy of the column hanging in their advertising department for years. Why?  Because it talked about something many people weren’t thinking about in the midst of the greatest recession our country had seen in years. Marketing.

During COVID we saw this happen again. The situation was different, but there were similarities. Businesses and organizations were simply trying to survive. A lot made it, but many didn’t. Each circumstance was different, but those who kept relationships and marketing at the  forefront were much more likely to remain top of mind with their audiences and prospects.  Those that didn’t faced reestablishing relationships that may have been lost. Customers  may have strayed, prospects don’t know what you offer, donors don’t know what you are doing.  Don’t lose this important momentum.

When businesses, or organizations, need to cut costs they often cut their marketing budgets first. This is understandable but extremely short-sighted. There are other competing priorities. But if you don’t pay attention to your advertising, communication and marketing efforts, you will  likely be forgotten.

Inflation, a possible recession, the increasing cost of doing business, and fears for the future due to uncertainty are resulting in slashes to budgets of businesses large and small.  But when you cut your marketing, you are effectively cutting your voice. Does that make sense?

As leaders of businesses and organizations, you should be thinking about how you will communicate with your target audiences currently, and in the future. Your communication is likely to change, and then change again. Now is the time to do your homework, to dig in. Now is the time to develop a plan.  After all, as  Thomas Edison noted, “Good fortune is what happens when opportunity meets with planning.”

Effective planning requires an understanding of your operating context. This includes your target audiences, geographical location, competition, opportunities and more. Your messaging must be carefully tailored to engage target audiences in a thoughtful and intentional manner.

So where to start?

Be creative. While many may need to cut back, there are ways to connect.  Have a plan. Haphazard efforts may create the perception that something is getting done, but without planning your efforts may not be working.  Are you effectively technology available? Do you have the right people in place to move you forward? What needs to change to ensure that you are putting your best foot forward, despite smaller budgets?

Dust off your communication/marketing plan. It’s likely out of date at this point. If you don’t have a plan, begin developing one to carry you forward.

Who do you wish to communicate with? What do you know about them? What do you want them to know about you? How will you reach them? What are your competitors doing? Why will your target audiences be interested in your message?

In 2009, and again during COVID, those with plans in place were more successful than those who didn’t have plans in place. Those who hadn’t raided their marketing budgets were better positioned to move ahead.

I keep this quote from Jim Rohn in mind, “If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you – not much.”

Stacy Cornay is the owner of Communication Concepts Public Relations & Advertising.  She may be reached at 303-638-7127; scornay@comm-concepts.com; www.comm-concepts.com; Facebook.com/Communication Concepts; Twitter @CommConceptsPR; or LinkedIn.

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