— Worcestershire (@worcscc) February 16, 2014
BUSINESSES are among the worst-hit victims of the flooding that has affected parts of Worcestershire over the last few weeks.
Although few were actually touched by the floodwater, the damage they nevertheless suffered has been considerable.
Roads closed by flooding, disrupted public transport and a perception among shoppers that travelling into town is difficult or even impossible have taken their toll.
But a dire situation has produced an unexpected and rather inspiring reaction.
Traders have taken to social media to declare loudly and proudly that in defiance of the floods they are still very much open for business.
In Worcester the campaign rallied around the #Open4Business hashtag.
It received considerable additional impetus when the Worcester News ran a live blog on its website devoted to supporting traders, following it up with several more over the duration of the flooding. All were pinned to the website’s home page. There was print coverage too.
I organised similar online support for businesses in Malvern in the run-up to Christmas last year. The Malvern Gazette’s #VeryMalvern campaign, which also ran in print, was well received by the business community. Click here for some testimonials.
Newspapers must take careful note of this growing trend for business communities to organise their own marketing initiatives, a point I have already touched upon in this blog.
We must be more willing to form more flexible relationships with them that comprise more than a straightforward exchange of money in return for advertising space.
Showing solidarity during times of hardship such as flooding is an obvious starting point, but newspapers’ potent print-online-social combination offers many other exciting possibilities that would benefit both parties.