Although the economic recovery is still far from certain, some in our business are preparing for it in plans for new new hiring, deal-making and restructuring, as reported in today’s New York Times. This is smart thinking, and it gives me hope that the outdated “conventional wisdom” of cutting discretionary marketing spending during a recession has finally died. In our firm, clients have largely looked at PR as a tool to help them succeed during the recession; consumers are spending less, so their value proposition has to be that much more powerful.
But, not all companies think that way. PR is still poorly understood by some, and the very things that make it powerful – the impact on brand reputation, the versatility, the trade-off of control for credibility – can also make it opaque. I suggest that, instead of talking about PR and marketing spending, businesses should look at the PR budget as an investment – in their business, their brand, and the economic recovery. Here, then is a list of reasons not to curb that PR investment during an economic downturn:
Consumers are spending less. It should be obvious, but it bears repeating that when things are tight, brand marketing support is more valuable than ever. And, when the news is full of retrenchment and retreat, positive stories tend to stand out more. This is particularly true for smaller businesses and brands, since the media love a challenger.
Competitors may be weaker. If so, now’s the time to press your advantage. If not, you risk falling behind.
Bad news needs skillful communication. Bouncing back from bad news starts with proper disclosure and management. PR isn’t a fix for bad or dishonest corporate behavior, but an experienced PR professional or team can help put potentially damaging news into perspective, limit the downside, and get a brand or business image back on track.
Position for the recovery. Businesses that invest now will be ahead of competitors when things turn around, which can greatly affect their ability to attract customers, partners, and employees. Brands with a commitment to marketing during downturns tend to do well when the economy improves, according to Buyology’s 2008 Neuromarketing study.
Results lag investment. Naturally. But, many don’t realize the amount of lead time required to plan, execute and see the benefits of a strong media relations program, and the opportunity cost of stopping and starting again. Who wants to spend a year searching, hiring, and directing a PR team when they could be creating or taking advantage of opportunities as they happen?
Reputation matters. A lot. Maybe even more in a downturn. Investment in one’s brand or corporate standing doesn’t lend itself to an on-again, off-again commitment in any environment, let alone today. Skepticism among consumers and stakeholders is at a high-water mark. Proper communication of brand attributes and corporate social values has an incalculable, but very real, value.