Our Southern Voices today comes from Amy Howell, CEO/Founder of Howell Marketing Strategies, LLC. This message will resonate with business owners and decision-makers, but there is good advice here for us all.

I don’t know about y’all (I can say that because I’m Southern by birth and the Grace of God) but I am sick of hearing all of this negative news on the you-know-what thing. I don’t even want to say the name. I am not blind to the fact that people are hurting physically and financially, and I do feel like the local hospitality industry needs a life ring. When businesses are forced to “shut down” and they depend daily on customers coming in, I’m not sure there is much they can do. For everyone else who can work from home or who have the luxury of the corporate paycheck, it is a time to lean into resilience.

As a veteran public relations and crisis management professional with too many years to admit working, I can tell you that this too shall pass. While today seems like everyone is spinning out of control, I would tell you to stop, take a deep breath and know that change is the one thing we can count on and we can learn a lot from it. I have helped my clients through housing crashes, banking crashes, and sadly, an airplane crash. Crisis management teaches you to think differently and plan for the worst but hope for the best. I can tell you one thing is for sure: It’s not easy. Ever. But, if you stick to the basics and use these guidelines, you can navigate your business through the rough waters.

  • Don’t panic and don’t spread fear: In the old days (before social media) we relied solely on the media for helping us manage the message. Panic is never a good strategy and businesses often make poor decisions based on fear. Fear, of course, is a good motivator but it must be channeled productively. When things get tough, don’t panic. Stop and take a day or two to reach out to key advisors such as bankers, lawyers and marketing and sales. Ask questions and think about how you can turn the fear into “it cannot eat me and I will survive this” mentality.


  • Be strategic! Use the crisis to think strategically about your business. What got us here? What is hurting us now? How can we improve, change and adapt to offer different services, products, ideas? Tap into some of your peers and mentors. Ask them for ideas and host a “brainstorming for ideas” small group lunch (social distancing of course). Older and more mature businesses have been through it before. Ask them!


  • Don’t stop marketing and communicating with your customers: People hire winners. They want their teams and vendors to be successful and confident. Now is the absolute best time to tell your story and gear up for when things come roaring back—and they will. I believe the USA will be even more focused on hiring local, manufacturing local and those local companies will be the first tapped to be back in the game. Be ready!


  • *Tell your story or someone else will: Competition is waiting to take your spot. Don’t let them. Tell your story loud and bold. If you are closing to re-group, communicate the new ideas you are implementing. Reassure your customers that while you are sensitive to the crisis, you are not sitting still. Call them on the phone! Check on how they are doing. Great ideas are often born out of adversity. High gear does not do well in the “pause” mode. Keep moving.


  • Stay positive, stay confident: The world is not ending. Yes, you may have a setback. Yes, some business may not make it and that is truly sad. Yet that’s the reality of the American ingenuity and capitalistic spirit. When the i-phone came out, cameras and camera shops and film processing became obsolete. There is always something developing and as a business, you have to stay positive which means not being complacent and irrelevant.


  • Surround yourself with like-minded, strategic, positive business people. Find them, call them, talk to them. Who knows? You might just find yourself with a new board of advisors.

We will all get through this together. We will need to depend on each other more. Maybe some of our human soft skills like compassion and giving will rule the day and we’ll make this a better world. My business has survived all the economic ups and downs, the housing crash, 9/11, a partner dissolution, disruption of business due to health issues and more. The key is to keep going, learn from each experience, spend money when it hurts, stay positive and know that deep down you have that resilience to bounce back and come back in a bigger and better way. And don’t ever be afraid to ask for help doing it. These times have proven that we are all connected and we all need one another. Keep going.


Amy. Howell is CEO/Founder, Howell Marketing Strategies, LLC