What Recession? How Speed Affects Post-COVID Recovery

Is anybody else feeling like this? The mainstream media forebodes a looming recession, but life feels like it’s going at breakneck speed.

Of course, there are always winners and losers in a crisis. Travel has taken a devastating hit, while Netflix had its biggest quarter ever this year.

Others are slowly creeping back. 10.5 million of us tucked in to Eat Out to Help Out in the first week alone, while UK properties are now selling 50 per cent faster than this time last year. Clearly, there’s a widespread thirst for ‘getting back to normal’ . It’s not just B2C either.

“Fertile ground for marketers”

If you’ve been following my #Write52 posts, you may remember I quoted my hero Mark Ritson a few weeks ago. In April, Ritson told us that “recessionary periods provide fertile grounds for marketers to grow their brand’s market share”.

The article cited a Harvard study into post-war recession, examining 250 companies. Participants were categorised by their attitudes to advertising:

  • Those who ignored it
  • Those who cut back
  • Those who increased budgets.

Long story short – increased budgets fared far better, both short and long-term.

So, does that explain the state of the digital marketing world right now?

Digital marketing is gaining speed

Every business will have seasonal highs and lows. I generally see projects picking up from September onwards, and this year is no exception. In fact, it started a month earlier.

It turns out, Katie Lingo is not alone. A casual survey on Instagram revealed that my fellow freelancers are also snowed under. Meanwhile, things are picking up client-side – a legal marketing agency client is seeing unprecedented growth (sorry) and there are many new campaigns on the horizon.

All this in a recession? What’s going on? This crazy cat momma has some theories.

Making use of extra time

Cast your mind back to April. Bound by lockdown restrictions, brick and mortar businesses had a choice: twiddle their thumbs or raise their online profile.

During this period, my forward-thinking clients approached me to revise their content. Q2 was the perfect time to finesse that ‘evergreen’ content – things like case studies, FAQ pages, how-to blog posts: all of that general housekeeping that we should have been doing anyway.

Result: more shareable content for social media, better rankings and more brand collateral to guide clients.

Adapting products and services

Please, save me from the word pivot. While indeed, some businesses adapted – producing NHS gowns instead of overcoats – others created entirely new products.

For example, in August I took on a furniture client, who have called the crisis a “serendipity”. Their brand of adaptable furniture is allowing children to return to school safely, offering more flexibility for social distancing.

Another has developed a hygiene product for those returning to the office.

Result: turning a crisis into an opportunity, capturing a receptive audience.

Loving life behind a screen

We’ve been living online for a while now, but this is the first time we’ve managed to run large-scale online events with any discernible success. I’m thrilled to announce I’ll be working with ProCopywriters this October to launch the first Virtual Festival of Copywriting.

Likewise, who would have thought that Europe’s biggest SEO conference, attracting upwards of 4,000 people, would go online this October? A little investment in mobile apps, cameras and microphones goes a long way.

Result: more engagement and brand awareness due to lack of physical barriers. More sign-ups to physical events next year…we hope!

Getting in there first

Again, we already live in an online, instant gratification society, but now that society is on steroids. Not only are we battling mountains of work – it all needs doing yesterday.

Some of that comes down to delays. Postponed projects are now back with a vengeance, and marketers are keen to get their campaigns out before Q4.

Then we have the customer. Seventy-seven per cent of customers are doing at least part of their grocery shopping online, while 57 per cent are using marketplace websites like Amazon.

Result: a new focus on customer experience – streamlining the conversion process to prevent drop-offs. More stress for marketers, of course, but long-term, we should see an increase in brand loyalty.

Can we meet this increased demand at speed?

The economy might be slowing down, but we average Joes are all systems go. So, how we can get through this period of  minor madness?

Freelancers: prioritise your mental health

Recession is coming. You’re going to be tempted to say yes to everything right now.

Take a breath.

You don’t have to say yes to everything, or indeed, you don’t have to say yes right now. More and more agencies are outsourcing, so don’t feel disheartened if you do have to turn something down. You could be making time for something bigger and better.

If you’re anything like me, you probably waste more time fretting about workload than getting it done. Not sure where to start? Use this simple table:


Prioritise your shortest deadlines and most loyal clients, then add personal projects into the less urgent categories. Take on tasks one at a time – urgent and important, urgent and not important, important and not urgent, not important and not urgent.

Alternatively, you could try ‘snowballing’ – ticking off a few little tasks to get you into the mindset for the bigger ones. Or you could even try ‘eating the frog’ – tackling the task you like least, first. Everything else is a doddle, right?

Agencies: set expectations

Yes, your clients will want projects delivering yesterday, but this should not be at the expense of existing ones. Retention is always more important than acquisition!

Agree timeframes with in-house teams, client decision-makers and any freelancers, leaving wiggle room for amends.

Start-ups: focus on UX

Now is an exciting time to be starting new projects, particularly if you can innovate for the pandemic. Just remember that there is a lot more noise than usual, putting more pressure on you to stand out.

Very rarely are new products totally unique, so differentiate by improving your customer experience. Starting carte blanche means you can identify any website issues now before they turn into bad habits.

Customers: please be patient

Not every company is Amazon, and many will be proud of that statement. This is a time to be looking out for the little guys, supporting local businesses who may be a little slower or less flexible with tech. If you really value what they offer, you should make time for them – your brand loyalty will not go unrewarded.

Slowing down to speed up

Only a few months ago, many of us were commenting on how much we were enjoying this slower pace of life. We might be chomping at the bit to get started again, but I implore you all not to forget these lessons learned during lockdown.

Steady, consistent marketing is the best approach to making sure your brand stays relevant. More than that, it helps to set boundaries and will have a marked improvement on your teams’ health.

There’s always a new project coming, but you can’t get your time back. Use it wisely.

Katie Lingo
by Katie Lingo
28th August 2020