Tough economic times present PR opportunities. If everyone else is cutting their public relations expenditure, then the players that remain will be heard more loudly and clearly. You will still want to be prudent and it is wise to review activities and focus on those that make the maximum impact.
Ten Things You Should Do
- Look after your customers. In good times standards may slip and negative opinions are formed that went unnoticed. These become more critical issues in a recession – when every customer counts. Redouble your efforts to ensure all customers are happy and communicate with those that aren’t and find out why!
- Focus on value not price. It is much better to add value to the overall package by including additional elements such as service and focusing on the factors that make your offering truly different to competitors rather than simply lowering prices.
- Audit the promotional mix. Promotion is often the most costly element in the marketing mix. If you see this as a cost then it will be very tempting to take the axe and chop, chop, chop. But if you see promotion as an investment then you will see slash and burn approaches as harmful to your medium and long range interest. Examine carefully which elements of the mix are of greatest value to you. PR will almost certainly be near or at the top this value/cost analysis.
- Advertising – retreat to quality. Look at the promotional channels you use. Which of these are core to you? Which reach the highest numbers of target customers? Which have reliable certified circulations? Which have built in response channels and the highest potential yield? Cut the ones that don’t fit this criteria.
- Exhibitions, sponsorships and promotions. Now is the time to look seriously at these large ticket items – do they deliver serious customers, or just generate the warm glow of goodwill?
- Much of corporate communication tends to vanity, passing itself off as awareness creating, brand building and positioning. In tough times it is better to focus on messages about product or capability that have strong calls to action and that will produce name and address leads and enquiries. Intelligent use of the web is key to this process.
- Make PR the lead communication activity. PR has the power to sneak under the buyer’s radar in a way that advertising and other ‘in your face’ promotional tools cannot. It has reach, value and credibility. More than this, it has an investment effect that other channels lack. People store facts and messages from PR for decades and this shapes their perceptions of companies and brands. For these reasons it is wise in hard times to maintain PR momentum.
- Reinforce your web presence. The web is a hugely empowering force for your prospective customers. It is where the active enquirer, who is intending to purchase, looks for information, screens the various offerings and decides to shortlist suppliers. It is a good time to improve your web presentation and present your best face to these crucial buyers. Product reviews, case studies, white papers, opinion pieces, blogs, podcasts are all potential tools to use.
- Differentiate. Having differences between your product and others that buyers value is the key to avoiding being seen as a commodity product. Emphasise good practical design that has user benefits over mere style. Stress the aspects of quality and service that extend the usefulness and value of the product.
- Negotiate the best deal you can. Whether it is advertising, exhibition space or any other promotion, negotiate the best deal you can. Make it plain that you have a budget so the seller knows they are not wasting their time, but that you want to maximise the impact for the money you spend.
Five Things You Should Not Do
- Don’t expect something for nothing. Yes – negotiate hard with suppliers – but be reasonable and have realistic expectations.
- Now is the time to renew contact, bearing in mind that clients may well be reviewing suppliers to find better value and performance.
- Don’t withdraw into the bunker. Maintaining a positive attitude – and an active approach – will enable you to find and exploit the PR opportunities that do exist.
- Don’t neglect networks. This is the time when the real network of colleagues, professional associates and old friends can provide leads to new business and unconventional opportunities to work together.
- Don’t forget to communicate. Keeping up the releases, the blog, the newsletter and professional network connections maintains visibility and gives you prominence when others have withdrawn.