“Don’t think reopening means business as usual.”
This is the message from Richmond News publisher Alvin Chow.
The world has changed with COVID-19 and businesses have to rethink how they operate. Those who have pivoted to repurpose themselves, at least temporarily, have had a better chance of surviving. However, other business models don’t allow for the same flexibility, so staying afloat has been a challenge.
“COVID-19 has shone a light on holes in business models,” said Rob Akimow, Richmond News director of sales and marketing. “Some, for example those set up for e-commerce, fared better; others were left out in the cold.”
To support businesses in Phase 2 of the pandemic, with partial re-opening of services allowed by provincial health officers, some Richmond groups have launched websites to help spread the word on what businesses are open and what restrictions they are operating under.
Tourism Richmond, the Richmond Chamber of Commerce and the City of Richmond have partnered to build a business hub — WeAreRichmondBC.ca. Meanwhile, Richmond City Coun. Chak Au has launched SupportLocalBusiness.ca also to spread the word on the new normal in business.
Akimow notes that the News — with both its print and digital distribution channels — can also play a key role in the restart or boosting of businesses.
During the past 12 weeks, with health orders in place to stay close to home, buying patterns have changed, Akimow said. Businesses have to capitalize on those changes while also ensuring customers are aware they may be physically reopening as well, albeit with changes to ensure health and safety.
“All businesses need cash flow. Our objective at the Richmond News is to bring people in through their doors — virtually or in person,” Akimow said.
Akimow acknowledges businesses are hurting, but there are a lot of free and low-budget ways the News can help bring customers back, he stressed.
A directory called GuidedBy.ca is a free service where businesses can post information about their operation, location and business hours. The News also does free digital audits of businesses, meaning they analyze a company’s web traffic, SEO effectiveness and digital footprint to create a “report card of their online presence,” Akimow explained.
A fun initiative the News launched with local business Herbaland was a mental wellness contest, whereby readers post photos of how they take care of their mental health and are entered to win $250 in Herbaland products.
“These are all examples of unique and different ways businesses can look at marketing themselves differently. Print ads and basic digital services are just one piece to the marketing mix,” said Akimow. “We should be looking at any and all options, contesting, virtual events, even flyers; there is really nothing we cannot do.”
With its deep roots in the community as a source of news and advertising, the News reaches a wide local audience weekly in the paper and 24/7 online at richmond-news.com.
As businesses restart and rethink how they can serve their customers in this “new normal,” the News is open for business with “all hands on deck,” Akimow said, adding businesses shouldn’t be worried about asking for help, even if their advertising budgets have shrunk because of the pandemic.
“We have no illusions about how hard it will be for businesses to restart, but we are here to help,” he added.