COVID-19 Economic Impact on the Printing Industry
Start with customers. We need current, detailed, actionable intelligence on how COVID-19 is affecting them and how they are responding. Use social media to get it. Join their LinkedIn networks, Facebook networks, and the forums they participate in — not to sell but to listen, observe, and learn. As stated in “How Retailers Can Reach Consumers Who Aren't Spending”: “Social distancing has resulted in a huge spike in social media traffic. If that is where your customers are, that is where you want to be.”
Take what we’re leaning and connect the dots. What looks like an opportunity? How can we most help right now? How are client needs, preferences, and practices changing and which changes are likely to continue after the pandemic? For example, even when social distancing has eased, they may still want to do more business over the Web. So beef up online sales, marketing, product demonstration, and educational/advisory capabilities. Think YouTube instead of face-to-face.
The bottom line, according to “A Way Forward for Small Businesses”: “Your short-term cash flow depends on providing them [customers] with goods and services during the crisis. Your long-term viability depends on understanding how their needs will be different when the pandemic is over.” Effective use of social media gives us a leg up on both.
Focus also on maintaining ties with your most valuable employees. In “Loans and Layoffs” we presented ways to avoid layoffs. But if we have to let some of our best go, the objective immediately becomes ensuring the separation doesn’t become permanent, because recovery will be a lot harder without them. Discuss the generous unemployment benefits authorized by the CARES Act. (Some economists worry the benefits are so generous they will hinder recovery by encouraging people to stay on unemployment rather than return to work. See “Congress Can Still Save the Recovery,” Casey B. Mulligan, Brian Blasé, The Wall Street Journal, April 8, 2020.) Discuss local sources of aid, private as well as public. And discuss everything the company is doing to remain viable and maximize the chances that their jobs will be waiting for them when the crisis is over. Quoting “A Way Forward for Small Businesses”: “The key here is to focus on the long term and to be human … Make sure that the decision [to separate] feels mutual and temporary. If you do have to make some tough decisions about who you want to keep, focus your attention on retaining people who feel like the best fit and who really care about being part of your company.”
Andrew D. Paparozzi joined PRINTING United Alliance as Chief Economist in 2018. He analyzes and reports on economic, technological, social and demographic trends that will define the printing industry’s future. His most important responsibility, however, is being an observer of the industry by listening to the issues and concerns of company owners, executives and managers.
Previously, he worked 31 years at the National Association for Printing Leadership. He has also taught mathematics, statistics and economics at various colleges.
Andrew holds a Bachelor’s degree in economics f rom Boston College and a Master’s degree in economics — with concentrations in econometrics and public finance — from Columbia University.