Media companies, ad agencies tweak messaging to keep clients    

Media companies and advertising agencies have switched to crisis communications mode, positioning themselves as a resource to clients and advertisers struggling from the business impacts of COVID-19.

Gordy Rush, vice president of Guaranty Media, says some of the annual events his company promotes—such as March Madness, the Zurich golf tournament and a monster truck show—have been canceled, while some businesses that advertise with Guaranty have been forced to shut down. Conversely, Rush says, Guaranty has added more accounts in the past week with mortgage lenders, HVAC companies, banks, health care providers and other industries that have informational messages to promote during the viral outbreak.

“We’re absolutely concerned because we depend on local business,” Rush says. “So we’ve become more informative.”

Not only does his talk station now air President Trump’s, Mayor Broome’s and Gov. Edwards’ daily news conferences; Guaranty started a Facebook Group called “Baton Rouge Area Businesses Affected by COVID-19,” which acts as a free forum for its 6,350-plus member businesses to engage with one another.

Guaranty isn’t alone in its approach. Local advertising agency MESH has been on the phone with clients asking what their greatest challenges are at the moment, while also calling different organizations on a pro bono basis to offer advice. The company recently partnered with BRAC to present small businesses with best practices for remote working.

“Our message to our clients right now is very simple: How can I help?” says Taylor Bennett, CEO of MESH, which hasn’t lost any clients yet. “What we’ve learned is that you’ve got to be able to adapt quickly and pivot based on the crisis, so we’ve been tweaking the messaging in a lot of the ads.”

Based on what its clients have cited as immediate needs, Stuart Feigley, CEO of Feigley Communications, says his agency has been drafting internal messaging support regarding confirmed cases of COVID-19 within an organization—one of which is for a nursing home group. It’s also been providing clients with external messaging, standby media statements, internal COVID-19 policies, event cancellation announcements and posters and signage detailing ways to prevent the spread of infection.

“Responsiveness and speed will be key,” Feigley says. “In these kinds of situations, I always caution people looking too far ahead; it’s important that everybody stay flexible.”

At the same time, these companies—which have traditionally relied upon the kind of relationship-building forged through face-to-face interactions and in-person sales pitches—must adapt to a fully remote workforce.

Though Feigley and Bennett say the shift has had little impact on their operations thus far, Rush predicts it will become more difficult to pick up new clients without the ice-breaking benefit of coffee meetings and lunches. Meanwhile, Kenny Nguyen, CEO of creative agency ThreeSixtyEight, says remote working can prove challenging when it comes to creative output, but he’s implemented some internal policies—like having each team member send three emojis a day to describe their mood—in an effort to offset lower morale.

To manage his workforce, Feigley is using his agency’s cloud-based software, while MESH uses Google Enterprise and Guaranty uses Microsoft Teams and Skype.

Read more stories on how the coronavirus is impacting the Baton Rouge business community.

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