At the time of the last economic crisis in 2008 my daily frustration was journalists telling me that they were hearing no SME good news stories, so assumed that there were none. At the very same time businesses were telling me that they were doing great things to battle their way through, but had no idea, and certainly no real budget, to get their successes in front of those responsible for the words in the columns of the news titles.
We need to break this vicious circle with a positive media tsunami.
There are two reasons why this is so important.
We believe what we read
Firstly, because, from my banking days I remember that when we asked customers what they thought of our service, 46% acknowledged that they responded based on what they had read rather than their actual experiences. So nearly half of us believe what other people tell us rather than what we actually experience ourselves. For ‘other people’ read ‘the media’.
Until we believe that the SMEs in our high streets are in decent, if not perfect, health and are doing great things to get the wheels moving again we won’t have the confidence to act to reverse the 20% decline in the economy that the Coronavirus lockdown has left us with.
Change the readership mindset
Secondly, because we have a morbid habit of talking ourselves down in the UK, and almost enjoy reading about other peoples’ misadventures. Don’t be surprised that the journalists are always looking for the negatives.
Simply it's our own fault. We are the ones that actually buy the papers with the negative article in, so it's no surprise that the journalists write them, and not until we in the SME world outweigh the negative stories with positive ones, will we start to change the mindset of the readership towards confidence.
In the 2008 cycle it took the best part of three years to convince the business world that the banks did actually want to help them, and even ten years plus later there are still the doubters. In this cycle, we don’t have three years, and we certainly don’t have ten.
So, we need to get the positive stories flowing right now, not just to beat the virus, but to drive the economic recovery.
It’s fine for the Chancellor to do his bit by politely encouraging us all to get back into the high street, but most people in this country have stopped listening to the politicians. Right now it will be for the high streets themselves to get the message over.
Pulling in the same direction
There is another reason why it is so important that we drive the positives this time too.
In 2008 the UK, under the then Prime Minister, was driving the global recovery with everyone pulling in the same direction.
This time we have Brexit on the near horizon, so let there be no doubt that there will be individual factions pulling in different directions all trying to ensure their own economic recovery, if need be at the expense of others.
Winning hearts and minds has never been so important, and the media, both traditional and social, has never had such an important part to play in that. But without a tsunami of positive stories constantly flowing into the journalists’ inboxes we are likely to continue reading the negatives.
If just 10% of the UK’s six million SMEs issued one positive story each month the media focus would see a seismic change.