Recent conversations with folks representing a wide range of industries tells me the jury is still out on how much of an economic upturn we’ll see in 2010. Banks are still slow to lend, construction is at a standstill and excess buildings are still under construction. That being said, there are signs that in some industries companies are ramping up their plans for hiring and spending. I will be more than happy to see 2009 end, so let’s talk about what those companies that are ramping up will find.

First, they will find more competitors fighting for the limited pool of business and some will be fighting the only way they know how, on price. To avoid getting caught in that trap, your organization needs to understand what differentiates you from the crowd. Then you have to bring your story to life with real life examples of why it matters to each of your customers. And with the increased competition, you can’t miss an opportunity to tell your story. One VHPR client recently challenged every employee in the company to develop their personal version of the company story and to tell it to people who would be great referral prospects. The company divided into teams and made it a competition. The result? New contacts were made with several hundred prospects, and employees at all levels feel much more comfortable with telling the company story. And yes, business increased!

Second, it’s a great time to really look at how things have changed while your company has been hunkered down. These changes impact how you can get in front of your critical audiences. Hint — mass audience print publications and television networks continue to decline, being replaced by a myriad of online channels for launching your message. What do you need to add to your marketing mix to respond?

Finally, make 2010 the year you really engage in social media. And it’s best if you take the time to get it right. That means getting buy-in at the senior level, making sure the organization understands social media, and developing a long-term plan. And that plan must spell out goals for what you want to accomplish and how you will measure your success on reaching those goals within a realistic timeline.

This is not the time for gently dipping your toe in the water and backing out. You need to be implementing a social media strategy now!