Batten down the hatches.

By Richard Miller Richard Miller - Mar 23, 2020
By Richard Miller Richard Miller - Mar 23, 2020

Batten down the hatches.

It’s a natural reaction to an oncoming crisis.


Originally a nautical term from the early 19th century. When a ship was about to enter
rough seas, the captain would order the crew to batten down the hatches. They would
close all the hatches (doors) on the ship’s decks and use lengths of batten (rods) to secure
the hatches in the closed position. They were then seemingly safe.


Any good Sigmund Freud wannabe will tell you that there are three core reactions in a time
of fear and uncertainty; fight, flight or freeze. So, in business, when we “batten down the
hatches” which of these responses are we identifying with and given the choice, which
would you pick?


Would you freeze? Hmmm, maybe. You are taking cover in familiar surroundings and
protecting yourself, your business and your team. You are wrapping your metaphorical wing
around everything you know and are standing still whilst the madness unfolds around you.
You are putting everything on hold and neither going immediately backwards nor forwards.
You are maintaining the status quo. It seems less daunting.

What about flight? Should we be running away from the issue? Maybe that’s it. We are
abandoning life as we know it for temporary shelter. By locking ourselves away from the
problem we are protecting ourselves from the horror of an uncontrollable threat.
We will re-surface; but for the time being we must head for the hills and lock ourselves
down. The incoming threat seems so unimaginable to manage that the only option is to
ditch outta there. It’s ok, we will be back.

But is it possible to batten down the hatches and fight? Yes, you can and quite frankly you
should. But not in the traditional sense. This isn’t a new age David and Goliath rematch. Nor
can you be expected to control the uncontrollable. What you can do is start to think
smarter, more strategically and laterally. Fighting a battle can take many forms.
But maybe the word fight is throwing us. It smacks of The Rumble in the Jungle, Rocky and
Apollo or Kim K and T Swizzle. It’s our game so let’s change the vernacular. Consider
changing Fight to Challenge. If we challenge a set of circumstances, we are empowered to
proactively create change. Because when we challenge the fight, we consider the options.
And there are always options.

To challenge is the way. Because let’s be honest, the two alternatives are flawed.

As a business, to freeze is to go backwards whilst the challengers devour your market share.
In any competitive industry, the vultures are always circling, and they will take no time at all
to pick over your company’s static corpse.

If you choose to get out of dodge, your brand may never recover. How can a client or
customer ever trust you again if you leave them behind when the going gets tough? Maybe
you keep your doors open whilst you hide in the back office, scared to emerge. But you
certainly no longer hang out your shingle. You are in lock down and you will come out when
you are ready. But if you fail to communicate and make your loyal clientele feel loved
through difficult times, they WILL forget who you are in favour of the competitor that was
there for them. The one who flirted with them when they felt insecure and made them feel
special when you no longer cared.

So, let’s face it; to fight or challenge is the only way to cut through in times of uncertainty
and guarantee ourselves a place at the table when the norm returns.

Whilst the world faces its greatest trial since World War I, we must adapt and stay strong.

It’s going to be a rough ride and selling your wares may be more difficult than ever.

In the long run though, keeping your brand front of mind through creative thinking and
strategic communication is what will keep you in the game.


Richard Miller – Brand Director, Crisp & Co.