THE local media has always been critical to the business communities it serves.

And while trusted local newspaper brands staffed by professionally trained journalists are now more important than ever in delivering vital news and information, the same can also be said for business coverage in these challenging times.

Local media, with its huge online audiences, social media presence, loyal print readership and digital marketing expertise such as Newsquest’s LOCALiQ, is already playing a critical role in the resetting, rebooting and recovery of local economies.

As they have done for decades, journalists and commercial staff are shouting loudly about business success, highlighting how firms have adapted overnight, collaborating with BIDs and Chambers to promote important initiatives and generate revenue, lobbying on business issues and now publicising vital safety and reassurance messages to encourage people back to town high streets and city centres.

Southend Standard:

During lockdown there have been numerous very successful examples around the country of local partnership working between the media, business organisations and owners.

Some of these partnerships were very quick off the ground and began even before the government restrictions came into force.

The tie up between the Bournemouth Echo and the Bournemouth Town Centre BID to promote businesses continue to operating throughout lockdown was one such example.

The outcome? A big audience reached and many more customers for a range of town centre businesses.

While huge uncertainties remain, one thing is very clear.

It will not be business as usual when things get back to whatever passes for normal.

Especially for the hundreds of thousands of local firms (or small and medium sized enterprises) which are the lifeblood of the economy.

Research published by Marketing Week Magazine showed that while small businesses were best-placed to adapt to squeezed supply chains disrupted as a result of the virus’s impact, they have also been disproportionately affected by the decline in demand when compared to large businesses.

Nick Ashwood is the managing director of digital marketing services for Newsquest, the UK’s second largest regional newspaper publisher.

Its local brands have a strong and respected presence around the country and include the Glasgow Herald, Bradford Telegraph and Argus, Southampton Daily Echo, Oxford Mail, Brighton Argus, Basildon Echo, Warrington Guardian and of course many others.

Nick says the innovation and resilience of business has been the engine room of community prosperity for decades. However many firms will now need to think and act differently.

“There are two very clear issues we’ve identified,” he explained. “First, many traditional businesses have always been driven by footfall, high levels of passing trade and the immense power of recommendation. Much of that trade simply disappeared overnight.

“Businesses which might previously have been aware of the importance of the digital environment but not done much about it are quickly adapting and looking at new ways of operating.

“In particular this means having a credible website to promote their services and messages, and where necessary taking transactions via an Ecommerce platform.”

Southend Standard:

Nick also believes many businesses will need to communicate in a more nuanced way, with more complex messaging about how they are opening for business while maintaining the new health and safety standards that we will all have to adopt.

“This may sound daunting but it need not be. With the right help, support and advice any business can become more nimble, responsive annd imaginative in its marketing, promotion, advertising and communication across a range of platforms.

“At Newsquest we are able to bring together the power of digital advertising and the communications skills and trust that has always been at the very heart of local newspapers, to deliver powerful carefully crafted, highly nuanced and targeted messaging and communication.

“So for instance we have responded quickly to help local businesses owners through these tough times with our Local Commerce package.

Southend Standard:

“This includes a 10-page Ecommerce website for only £499, a package of advertising on local news websites and social media and a spotlight article about the business, published as part of our local news coverage.”

Nick adds: “We all recognise these are challenging times for everyone. But there can be some real reinvention for many businesses and sectors and I believe some big opportunities and positive outcomes for the future. And we know that our business communities are nothing if not resilient and innovative.”

  • For more information about how we might be able to help, please call our LOCALiQ digital marketing team on 02080 592195 or visit localiq.co.uk