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PR in a recession


PR in a recession


Marketingmag.com.au welcomes Jules Brooke to the
site. Jules Brooke is the founder of PR agency Handle Communications and you can contact her on [email protected] or 0409 494 490. Jules will be doing a post series, monthly on everything under the PR umbrella from events to the ethics behind using sex to sell things! Jules will include some points for discussion at the end of each post – wed love to hear about your experiences.

There’s been a lot of talk about whether Australia is suffering from the ‘r’ word but regardless of what it is called, the upcoming year will be tougher than the last one. The key to survival will be to work smarter, be creative and brave.

As Harvard Business School Professor John A. Quelch noted recently:

It is well documented that brands that increase advertising during a recession, when competitors are cutting back, can improve market share, and return on investment at lower cost than during good economic times. (From http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/5878.html).

I think that this logic applies equally well to PR and money strategically spent on PR can have the result Quelch notes above. Your customers and potential new customers still have their needs and will be looking to fulfil them, maybe with a lesser budget, but they are still out there looking.

An economic downturn can provide opportunities that aren’t there in the good times – competitors may stop spending on PR so there is more chance your key messages will get through, you will receive more media exposure and your share of voice will be higher.

If you are running competitions and giveaways, you may have greater bargaining power as fewer businesses are jostling for the same number of places, and overall more customers will see, hear or read about your product or service.

Customer retention is cheaper than acquiring new customers and getting closer to existing customers through strategic, targeted PR is essential in tough times. Your existing database or clientele list shouldn’t be neglected as these people know you and hopefully trust you already.

If there is a need to reduce spending on PR, make sure what you spend is on PR that targets your market. It might be a good time to spend on new research to make sure you really understand where to find your customers and what motivates them so your marketing spend is most effective.

If you are reducing your ad spend, it might be better spent on PR in any case. PR delivers more bang for the buck with the added credibility of the media effectively endorsing any businesses they mention.

It’s also a good time to re-examine your PR strategy and goals and make sure you are on the right track still.

If you are in an industry where there is fear or speculation running rife (anyone for investment banking?) PR is an essential tool to communicate with investors and shareholders to ease their minds and position you away from the danger zone.

It’s important not to neglect quality even if times are tough. You might still need to run events but don’t suddenly let them slip into sandwiches and cordial from a five-star lunch.  Keep up your reputation and brand values and maintain your image, creatively if you need to.

If you are looking for a new PR angle, examine your products and services and see if the recession offers new opportunities for you. For example, could your gorgeous, expensive silk gowns be repositioned as inexpensive wedding dresses?

Importantly, don’t give into the fear. I once shared an office with a guy who sat up all night and watched the World Trade Centre disaster happen. The next morning he came into the office and packed up his things and left, convinced the world was at an end.

Obviously it didn’t end. The opposite in fact, and he missed out on some fantastic opportunities along the way to grow a successful business.

Points for discussion:

  • When did you last revisit your PR strategy?
  • Do you have a PR strategy?
  • Can you do what you do better and more cost effectively?
  • Do you really know your customers and how to talk to them?
  • What opportunities do you have now that weren’t there before?

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