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Thought leadership in a time of crisis: Business as usual

The coronavirus outbreak has upended global business. Concerns are growing of COVID-19, as the disease has come to be known, becoming a pandemic, triggering a string of predictable (and some unpredictable) reactions. China, where the virus originated, has borne the brunt of the fallout with normal life disrupted and its economy under threat. The country’s factories have struggled to reopen amid unprecedented containment measures, drying up the global supply chain, and making it harder to source everything from toilet paper to iPhones to automobiles.

Naturally, the outbreak’s impact has filtered through to the marketing industry. Campaigns have been put on hold and companies are calling off flagship events around the world. But while cancelling plans to gather hundreds of people under one roof during an outbreak is a sensible move, the argument for battening down the hatches and putting off all marketing communication until the crisis dies down is substantially weaker, especially considering the possibility that the coronavirus may never truly go away.

If anything, it’s even more important to continue to publish now – because clients will be looking to hear from you, if for nothing else than for reassurance that it is (or soon will be) business as usual. It’s also an opportunity to showcase in-house expertise by outlining the various ways in which the crisis could play out, what it means for your industry and its customers, and strategies to deal with likely scenarios in the weeks and months ahead.

Targeted crisis communication is all about acknowledging problems and clearly outlining a response in a way that instils confidence in the minds of clients, investors and other stakeholders, and portrays the organisation as a proactive, forward-looking entity capable of successfully handling short-term volatility.

As we noted in an earlier post, nothing communicates confidence and credibility like publishing regularly, and personally. So, while the world waits for an outcome, here are a few content ideas for topical and timely thought leadership that should help keep your content conversations going.

*Central bank dilemma: The virus outbreak poses a fresh challenge for the world’s central banks struggling with a depleted toolbox to revive their respective economies. The US Federal Reserve is seen adopting a wait-and-watch stance and possibly rethinking its interest rate policy for 2020. Meanwhile, the ECB’s hand may be forced by the unexpected intensity of the virus’s spread and its impact on the region’s economies. Across Asia’s emerging markets, central banks may be contending with a problem they haven’t had to deal with in a while – the possibility of a prolonged slowdown.

From a thought leadership perspective, insight into the likely impacts of central bank policy moves will assume even greater importance. The good news is this can be planned to coincide with banks’ pre-set calendars while retaining the flexibility to produce commentary on surprise, out-of-turn announcements.

*Existential economic questions: Talk is growing about a potential decoupling of the world’s largest economies, US and China, as an already frayed relationship comes under further strain. Meanwhile, globalisation is itself seen to be under threat as other countries get caught up in trade disputes of their own (India-US; Japan-Korea) and the virus threatens far-reaching consequences for Asia’s emerging markets, the global supply chain and sectors like tourism.

These issues would be of particular interest to a global audience of investors looking to gain a better understanding of Asia’s vast and diverse markets, as well as those keen to assess how the outbreak may impact China’s plans to reform its financial markets, and become more open and welcoming of foreign investors.

*Technology and the coronavirus: There is hope that technological advances, such as the growth of Artificial Intelligence (AI), could help rein in COVID-19. AI has already assisted in the development of an antibiotic by analysing millions of chemical compounds in just days. This bodes well for scientists scrambling to develop a vaccine and is of particular interest to those looking to invest in start-ups experimenting with cutting-edge technology that can help expedite the drug discovery process to rapidly bring new treatments to market.

At this sensitive time, Asia-based marketers are perfectly placed to produce timely and incisive thought leadership on these topics because, as we have noted, localisation goes beyond language. And those bold enough to do so are likely to find a highly receptive global audience.

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