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Preparing for the Upswing:  A Primer  
by Marc Hausman
At an investor conference sponsored by the Fairfax County, Virginia Economic Development Authority, AOL honcho and Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis told a crowd of CEOs, investors and service providers, “How you act and perform in a down cycle will determine how big the bounce is during the upswing.”

This sentiment was echoed by Barry Diller, chairman and CEO of USA Networks, in a past issue of Red Herring magazine when he explained, “If you can navigate the tough times, you benefit much better in the turnaround.”

So how do you navigate the rocky shoals of the recession and prepare for the upswing many analysts predict will occur as soon as this spring?  It will require extreme dedication, but you can make it to shore if you adhere to the four-part strategy we at Strategic Communications Group are following and preaching to our clients.

Keep in Touch

As you prepare for the eventual market upturn, maintain the closest possible ties with the business community and build on your network of relationships. To that end, Strategic recently announced an exclusive partnership with the Potomac Council of AeA (formerly the American Electronics Association).  AeA’s Potomac Council gets the benefit of Strategic’s public relations counsel and event coordination services.  In return, our clients and prospects get access to AeA’s 3500 member companies, including technology leaders like Cisco, Intel and Lucent.

The relationship has already paid dividends as we organized and sponsored an AeA town hall meeting on Terrorism and Bioterrorism late last year.  Strategic invited dozens of clients and prospects, providing enormous value to our established relationships and reinforcing the fact that we are players in the local technology business community.

Is there a local business or networking organization in your community? Make it a point to join and, if possible, take a leadership role in planning and organizing events.

Don’t Hide in a Cave

Eighteen months ago you couldn’t run to the grocery store without running into a prominent Washington, DC-based telecom company, which shall remain nameless.  They were profiled in trade publications, appeared at networking events and ran television commercials.  They were everywhere. 

Now they are reorganizing in Chapter 11and have completely eschewed the spotlight, reinforcing the correct but unhelpful impression that they are in a tailspin. There’s an old saying that “perception is reality.”  It’s true.  Once the market perceives your company to be in the death spiral there’s little chance of recovery.

I’m not saying PR would have been their lifeline, but during this rough patch in the business cycle it’s crucial to maintain high energy and especially high visibility within your market to ensure that you will be in a viable position to achieve your business goals when the market improves.  And it will improve.

How do you do it? Make a steady stream of market announcements and capitalize on the successes of your clients. This will help create the perception of momentum, and build excitement both with internal and external audiences.  And for heaven’s sake, don’t hide in a cave.  That only creates the perception that you’re dying.

Know Thyself

Now is when you must maintain an extremely tight focus on your market.  Step back, closely examine your value proposition and be able to clearly articulate it for customers, prospects and partners in the market segments where you have a proven track record.

Think back for a moment to the bad old days of the Dot-Com Bubble.  How many times did you hear about an Earwax.com or SpottedOwlRelief.org open their doors for business on the Internet?  When the bubble burst they suddenly realized the lack of a marketable value proposition was partially to blame.

Do your homework.  Target sectors of the market that are established and profitable and have good long-term prospects.  Then add the best and the brightest of the lot to your roster of clients.

Quiet Noise

Use any down time wisely. A slow sales cycle is not time for extra vacation. Turn your attention internally and see if there are improvements that can be made inside your walls to help prepare the company for the upswing. Also use this time to create tools or processes that will enhance your ability to compete in the market when you get moving again.

Strategic Communications Group is embarking on a massive survey of our best contacts in the press to determine what the learned group sees as the hot technology trends in the coming year. When the results are compiled, the survey will be packaged as a white paper and marketed as a value-add to our clients to further demonstrate our domain expertise.

The key for you is to create a plan of action that has the full support of your management team.  Be decisive in moving to implementation with a rigid timetable and a clear set of expectations.

Look, there’s no use complaining about the economy. It will get better; and signs are now pointing to sooner rather than later.  The way you captain your ship in rough waters will determine whether you wind up in a safe harbor, or on the rocks.

Marc Hausman is president and CEO of Strategic Communications Group, a public relations and marketing agency serving technology, IT services, software, Internet, and telecommunications companies. The firm has productized a Network of Relationships to facilitate client business goals. Contact Marc at [email protected].

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