Coronavirus – could it ‘infect’ your business?
Andre Kappelhoff is the founder of Viking PR and an established property PR professional with 15+ years’ experience in representing UK and international developers, housebuilders, estate agents and property service companies
Since the World Health Organization has classified the outbreak of COVID-19 as a global health emergency, the spread of the virus has become a tragic development and threat to humanity that is causing panic and economic uncertainty worldwide.
Having spoken to a number of industry professionals from the property sector, opinions are split as to how much of an impact coronavirus will have on their business’s performance.
A recent article published in The Guardian states: “One London firm of estate agents, Benham & Reeves, did polling this week and found that, for 83% of buyers and sellers, coronavirus would have no impact on their decision-making.”
But what if one of your key target audiences is the Asian market or your business activity focuses on international real estate? I have, for example, represented a number of property companies that implement sales offices and show homes in locations like Hong Kong; a city that has instructed a partial lockdown since mid-January.
Your marketing, PR and business development departments may want to dig into the archives. After all, it isn’t the first time our society is facing a pandemic. Remember SARS in 2003, Swine flu in 2009 or the first human bird flu outbreak in 1997?
Could these events hold an indication of how to best prepare your business from a communication point of view? We have compiled some suggestions that might be worth considering:
Always prepare for worst case scenario and ask yourself ‘what if vendors cancel viewings or buyers no longer want to leave the house to see the property?’. It may sound pessimistic but think about innovative ways to accommodate uber-careful clients.
Unrelated to a virus outbreak, a number of industry leaders have already implemented virtual 3D tours for their property portfolio, allowing buyers to ‘view’ a property without having to leave the comfort of their own home.
This may present a particularly useful solution for developers and agents, dealing with international properties.
The possibility of overseas property developments facing a decline in site visits due to flight cancellations and travel bans is anything but science-fiction.
Shift Your Advertising Focus
Business owners, facing a global crisis, tend to have one natural instinct: to stop all advertising until consumer confidence has returned.
But rather than pausing your ad campaigns altogether, property companies may want to consider a temporary reallocation of their advertising budget.
Think about it this way: We have learned that an increasing number of employees are encouraged to work from home. With more people working from home and avoiding the outdoors, more time will be spent in front of computer screens. It seems like a wasted opportunity not to step up your online advertising campaign.
Your database remains the most precious possession of your business. During tough economic times, remind your potential and existing customers of your brand, service offerings and USPs.
A clever way of doing this, without being too salesy, is by using company news or industry updates as a reason to reach out to your audience.
Step up Your Internal Communication
Remember that your internal communication strategy is just as important as your external one. The property industry is a networking industry. People-contact is inevitable. Considering current circumstances of the COVID-19 outbreak, some of your team members may actually feel uncomfortable. Ensure your team feels supported.
The perfect industry example of taking precautions and putting people’s safety first was the rescheduling of this year’s MIPIM event; now taking place 2-5 June 2020.
The Last Resort
If things have become critical, revisit your business plan – a sensible one should prepare for a crisis situation. If one of your revenue streams is weakening, put Plan B into action. This means, focusing on one or several of your company’s additional service offerings that may be less affected by a crisis and can substitute, or at least minimise, your revenue loss.
As long as we have your attention, we would also like to raise awareness of the Coronavirus Relief Fund by GlobalGiving. The fund’s objective is to raise £382,670 of which it has already achieved £181,237 (as of 8 March 2020).
“Donations to this fund will bring services to affected communities and help stop the virus’s spread. Initially, the fund will help meet immediate needs for healthcare, food, and water in partnership with our non-profit partners. As the situation unfolds, it will transition to support longer-term education and recovery efforts run by local, vetted organizations in affected regions. We will work with our partners on the ground to allocate funds where they’re most needed.”
Donations can be made via this link: https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/coronavirus-relief-fund/