The conference on “Recommendations for regulatory, policy, and administrative procedure reforms to support post-COVID-19 business recovery” took place on May 26th 2020, jointly held by the Prime Minister’s Administrative Procedure Reform Advisory Council, the Vietnam Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (VINASME) and the US Agency for International Development (USAID). The conference has discussed the obstacles that businesses are facing post-pandemic, as well as stressing the importance of the press in raising the voices for enterprises in order to weather the COVID-19 storm altogether.
Although Directive 16 of the Government on social distancing has no longer been effective, coronaviruses are ‘drowning’ manufacturing businesses into ‘deep water’.
Almost every company is somehow facing difficulty in ensuring the balance of financial accounts. Prolonged ‘hibernation’ makes it harder for short-term cash flow to recover back. Besides, pressures from costs of renting and operating as well as interest payments on different loans, using a strong financial leverage, are currently great puzzles to solve. According to the National Economics University of Vietnam, as of April 2020, these three factors constitute up to 63,5% of total burden on enterprises as a result of COVID-19.
Many companies are creaking under the weights of many debts after social distancing, which has forced enterprises to allocate most of their time dealing with their financial liabilities to relevant stakeholders. Without paying much attention to maintaining relationships with customers during the peak of the pandemic due to an overload of financial issues, a lot of businesses encounter even more obstacles when the marketplace starts to be back on track.
This story has fuelled a dilemma: by the time the economy commences its recovery, some businesses have to give up on securing their locations, including returning or handing over the ground rent, and even close their businesses for good.
According to a survey by the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI), until the end of April 2020, there are more than 35,000 enterprises across the country announcing their withdrawal from the market. The survey also shows that up to 30% of the total number of businesses expect a 30-50% reduction in revenue while 22% of them are concerned about a 50% decline in revenue compared to that of 2019. Anxiety is spreading when 30% of them think that they can only ‘survive’ for no more than three months and 50% believe that it is extremely difficult to maintain the business for more than six months.
During such a challenging situation, to quickly find an exit for your business, there is no other choice but to strengthen connections with your clients and partners.
The situation where there is volatility and uncertainty in the business environment and financial market will remain globally for a long while. At this stage, staff, clients, investors, banks/lenders, business partners, authorities and other stakeholders will all have their own concerns and demand for key information that enterprises need to deal with in a timely manner.
To minimise risks to business strategy, operation and finance, enterprises need clear and timely communications. Via transparent and regular communications, an enterprise can prove that its executive board with their leadership, knowledge and authority can manage risks with full control, and hence, maintaining its credibility with relevant stakeholders. Integrating with communications should be done in a clear, coherent and reasonable way, complying with all legal terms; for example, the State Securities Commission of Vietnam may require each entity to promptly report its current main risks and relevant financial or business problems. Business leaders should consider all measures, related materials and procedures to include all assessed impacts on (financial) reports. Through communications, companies can indirectly reach out to relevant stakeholders for help with their escalating concern and demand.
At the outbreak of the pandemic, despite reduced business activities due to disruptions in supply chain or temporary business termination, it’s critical not to disconnect with your customers. Companies should make use of media channels to issue, test out and refine your brand messaging related to the pandemic. This is particularly helpful when launching a new strategy, ranging from refreshing your products, new promotions that take price elasticity of demand into account, to introducing new packaging of some products to promote their hygiene or bacteria-free features against health-related threats. At this stage, communications make businesses’ responses to the pandemic more visible to customers’ eyes, and hence, gaining their trust in the corporate brands.
As government’s policies, regulations and legislation can affect businesses and the sector in every aspect, it is vital to actively monitor all sources of news from the Government as well as responses from enterprises in the same industry and participate in consultation sessions in relevant business association events and groups. Businesses should establish a communication network to facilitate interactions and connections with contact points in the Government and local authorities in the areas where the business operates, assign a staff to be the main focal point in engaging with the Government to, if necessary, contact the top authorities about responding to the pandemic. Please note that all potential changes should be considered because they can affect your business at any time. Therefore, within your capacity, actively engage with relevant authorities and national agencies, such as local health authorities, centers for disease control and so on.
Thanks to press releases, businesses can share about their financial situations and operational issues with relevant stakeholders. Besides, business leaders can send an open letter to partners, proposing solutions to share the overall burden now.
For example, last month, Mobile World Investment Corporation (MWG – Thegioididong) sent an official correspondence to ground partners of Thegioididong and Dien May Xanh groups to negotiate a better ground rent. Against the backdrop of adverse impacts on the corporate business and a remotely sound economy, MWG has requested its partners to reduce 50% of the ground rent for 12 months and exempt temporarily closed stores from the total rent according to an obligation of the Government.
Speaking up in the press can help businesses generate compassion and support from relevant stakeholders to help with, for example, financial issues, current cash flow, debt restructuring and rescheduling, commitments to cover the remaining liabilities in the future and so on.
Press releases are effective vehicles to drive greater collaboration and interaction with clients in this period. Messages like ‘Apologies for not being able to serve’, changing forms of selling/payment or promotion campaigns are key content targeting the buyers. This helps enterprises increase interaction and monitor responses as well as strengthen relationships with their customers.
Communications efforts towards changing policies or the policymakers’ opinions can go into different stages, including policy recommendations, development, approval and implementation. It is a long-run procedure, requiring corporate perseverance. However, success of such effort is not necessarily measured by the final result: whether policies are developed and implemented as expected. Occasionally, as long as prerequisites are amended, lobbying via communications (or press releases in this case) can be considered as successful to some extent in terms of changing a policy impact on the business environment.
Through comprehensive evaluation methodologies, including quantitative methods (e.g., frequency rates of the business/brand appearing on the media) and qualitative ones, businesses can make a self-evaluation of their effort.
Enterprises can appraise the performance of the communications campaign though specific data and figures post-campaign. (Source: CREATIO’s Media Clipping Report post-campaign for Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corporation).
In a nutshell, actively sharing and exchanging information with relevant stakeholders about corporate activities is among the simplest yet most effective moves for businesses not to feel isolated during their recovery in the ‘new normal’ period.
TIPS FROM US
Due to the ongoing economic crisis, businesses have made and will make cuts in spending on a list of items, including marketing and advertising, and will allocate all effort to improving the revenue and maximizing profits. Having acknowledged this situation, CREATIO would like to gather and share a few tips that are simple yet practical and ready-to-use that every company can follow right now, using internal resources without losing its competitive advantage during COVID-19:
A checklist of activities that businesses can do during COVID-19
(extracted from ‘Corona Marketing’ by Joe Pullizzi, April 2020)
Businesses do not always need to outsource with an extremely expensive price when there are free-of-charge marketing tools. Here are 13 moves that enterprises can spearhead to self-promote their brands, winning their pioneering positions in the market:
- Take a Fresh Look at Your Goals
- Focus on Finding the Believers
- Update Your Content Mission
- Revisit Your Content Tilt
- Develop an Internal Marketing Initiative
- Inject Life into Your Email Newsletter
- Do One Great Thing
- Steal Audience
- Leverage the Best Talent in the World
- Prepare for Multiple Lines of Revenue
- Get Ready for an Asset Sale
- Start Killing Social Channels
- Once in the Clear, Diversify Like Crazy
CREATIO believes that a successful brand marketing campaign should start with an effective content marketing plan.
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Established in 2011, CREATIO has proven its position and expertise in the industry of creative communications solutions consultancy. With a broad range of services from event management, branding design and production, to content marketing and PR distribution, CREATIO has the privilege to serve more than 120 clients worldwide, from a singular design concept to year-long integrated communications campaigns.