The economic downturn can be a great opportunity for organisations to build brand awareness and stakeholder confidence, according to the Public Relations Institute of Australia (PRIA).

PRIA national president Tracy Jones said smart organisations are using the current climate to take stock of their position.

Jones said the PRIA had received mixed reports about PR employment trends as the economic downturn takes hold. Some are cutting PR budgets while others are actually increasing them.

“This is a time when PR can make a big difference to an organisation,” according to Jones.

“Key stakeholders need reassurance; they need to know what is happening, what the organisation is doing, and how they will be affected. Organisations need to research their audience and understand the position they are in. By communicating your understanding and your action consistently, you maintain your brand position, your reputation and the confidence of your stakeholders and consumers, ultimately giving you an edge over your competitors.

“One of the key aspects of public relations is dealing with and adapting to change. Rather than do away with the PR function, organisations should adapt it to suit the climate. Cost-effective communication such as blogs, e-bulletins, media releases and web content can build your brand position and strength. In the long run, your organisation will be well placed when the market does turn around and there will be no need to play catch-ups.”

“It is particularly important to maintain stakeholder relationships and trust for organisations facing downsizing. Keeping open and honest communication with staff, stakeholders, customers, government and the media is critical to keeping the relationship healthy.”