Connectivity and continuity: Long-term lessons COVID-19 can teach

Date: 06/04/2020
Author: Charlie Britten
Company: BeUniqueness Ltd

As the lockdown continues and businesses feel the strain, firms can learn a lot of lessons about the importance of having strong business continuity measures.

The issue of continuity has been one of the most problematic of the Coronavirus crisis restrictions.
Telling everyone to simply work from home during the lockdown is not a solution that all can apply, making questions of how to keep a business going in times of difficulty a major concern.

Indeed, the issue has now reached the very top of government, with prime minister Boris Johnson in hospital. Already other ministers have been filling in for him in press conferences after his diagnosis. But should be incapacitated altogether, the first
secretary of state Dominic Raab would fill in for him.

A sickly problem

Of course, however important Mr Johnson’s role is, he is doing a job that he is not uniquely qualified to do; prime ministers come and go. His situation would be like the chief executive of a company being ill; with reasonable organisation there should be someone to take over. Indeed, while such an eventuality could happen any time, there will doubtless be a number of cases where company bosses are laid low with Covid-19.

A bigger question is how to handle wider staff sickness. One of the reasons for the lockdown was to prevent a situation in which millions could all fall ill at once, since the small but substantial proportion falling seriously ill would overwhelm the capacity of health services to cope, resulting in far more deaths.
The containment measures designed to ‘flatten the curve’ of infections has meant fewer people getting sick than might have been the case, but small firms in particular could be badly hit if even a small number of staff members are ill.

Off premises

However, the greatest challenge has been to be able to conduct business in what for many is an abnormal fashion.

Essentially, firms will fall into three categories:
• Firms that will not be adversely affected and may even prosper from the situation
• Enterprises that can continue largely unaffected using remote working
• Companies that cannot maintain operations and will suffer a loss of trade

E-Commerce firms are of course in an extremely strong position here, since the availability of online shopping has provided them with potential extra custom at a time when people want to stock up on essentials, buy means of home entertainment such as films and computer games.

Indeed, many consumers hitherto not in the habit of shopping online may now become familiar with doing so, providing E-commerce with a longer-term benefit.

For others, some firms will of course be able to use home working rather than their office; meetings can be by video call, everything can be sent by email and online content can still be produced in the normal way.

A third category of firm will be hit particularly hard. This will be one either with no provisions in place (or possible) for home working or which requires people to be in a physical place. There are some obvious examples:

• Tourism (as people cannot travel)
• Pubs and restaurants
• Firms that rely on face-to-face meetings
• The gig economy
• Retail stores selling non-essential goods

For some, the fact that restrictions have fallen in spring will be particularly bad, with the Easter holidays essentially cancelled and garden centres having to discard many spring plants.

Planning for business continuity

The help provided by the government through its Furlough scheme will help a great many firms survive, pay their staff and be able to get back on their feet after the crisis, but it will have also provided plenty of food for thought. Many companies will conclude that they need to have stronger plans in place for business continuity.

Thoughts may focus on all the following:
• How to deal with a possible similar pandemic situation in the future
• Other potential risks to business continuity such as fire or floods
• Can future business and marketing strategies play a role in making firms more resilient against such challenges?

In the first instance, some of the lessons will be easier to draw, since reviewing what the problems were will help identify explanations. For example, if a company could have carried on using remote working but used fixed PCs and not laptops, the provision of the latter would make this possible.

The inability to access properties has been an obvious issue for many firms, as the deserted central business district in Manchester and other cities has testified. But there will also be sudden occasions when an individual firm is unable to access premises due to property damage. Moreover, incidents like fires and floods not only prevent access, but can also mean damage to documents and equipment. Insurance may cover costs, but it is vital that data and documents are backed up and stored remotely.

Building new strategies

Companies across Greater Manchester and around the country will be reflecting on their business continuity provisions, but there are some considerations that may not have been taken into account.

Among these may be the benefits of digital marketing. Understandably, launching a new marketing campaign might be the last thing on some people’s minds, but it is worth reflecting on how the high level of reliance on digital communication evident in this crisis gives those using digital marketing an advantage.

While ads such as billboards go unseen on empty streets and promotional events have to be cancelled, digital marketing such as PPC ads, email marketing and content blogs can carry on being produced and seen. Indeed, with more people necessarily online, the chances of users coming across them will be increased.

Not only can digital marketing continue through the crisis though; as with the benefits enjoyed by E-Commerce, the potential acceleration of the habitual use of online means of working, shopping and communicating mean that digital activity could become more important.

Having a digital marketing strategy could therefore be even more effective beyond the crisis. This could be one of many ways in which things do not return to ‘normal’, but rather morph into a ‘new normal’.

How BeUniqueness can help your firm

At BeUniqueness, we can help any small or medium firm develop a digital marketing strategy that can transform your fortunes for the better.

As one of the top digital marketing companies in Manchester, we can help you wherever you are at with your online communication and marketing. Whether you are only just beginning to get online, have a website already but want to make it better, or wish to try a new and better approach with your marketing, we can help you to build a tailored strategy designed especially for your firm that works for now and prepares you for the future.