Recent news of drone strikes on the world’s largest oil processing plant in Saudi Arabia not only caused an immediate spike in gasoline prices at the pump but are also causing other issues. In the meantime, observers say it will be weeks before the operation is back to normal.
Companies involved in transportation, as well as food and consumer goods producers, are expected to be hit the hardest. Customers on already tight budgets will likely cut back on discretionary spending, particularly dining out and shopping, during this period. And with fall and winter around the corner, customers in areas that rely on oil for heating will also be affected.
How can your company manage its public relations and marketing to help take the edge off cost-conscious consumers?
If you have a rewards or loyalty program, consider ramping it up by offering more benefits. Utilize every means available to let customers know you feel their pain and wish to help by offering them more deals.
If your company has a foundation and/or matches employee donations, seek out a nonprofit that is trying to help fill the need caused by higher oil prices. Consider a grant, giving employees time off to help there, internally publicizing matching gifts or a combination of these. Also, give serious consideration about a cause-related marketing effort that will benefit both your organization and the nonprofit.
From a PR perspective, be sure to alert not just the media about all these activities, but also your key publics. Don’t forget your employees. At times like this, it’s especially important to maintain, if not increase, communications.
Some, if not many of your employees, may also be affected by having to pay more at the pumps. Consider some ways to assist them as well.
One way is to retain a financial expert who can be on call for employees in need of free confidential counsel on better managing their budgets. Another would be considering partially or entirely paying for the cost of a monthly transit pass for the duration of the high gas prices.
Talk with your bank to see if they might offer a special interest rate to your employees who may want to consolidate their loans and bills. As a major customer of the bank, they may want the business and may be willing to do something.
Brainstorm with your team and HR department on where your company can best help relieve anxieties of your employees. If you can assist them during trying times, they’ll be your most loyal workers.
The Other Side of the Coin
There are a few benefits to higher oil prices. Past experience has shown that the sale of homes closer to urban areas where most jobs are located rises during periods of heightened gas prices. That’s good news for sellers.
Manufacturers of electric vehicles might expect to see increases in sales. Similarly, more people tend to purchase smaller, fuel-efficient vehicles when gas prices are high.
Whichever side of the spectrum you’re on, increase your communications and marketing. The tendency for many companies is to cut back. But remember that if you can build up your market share when things are tough, you’ll have an even greater customer base when things turn around…and they will, sooner or later.
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