The world is bracing for a possible recession, and businesses are scrambling to craft strategies that account for an economic downturn. Unfortunately, the global upheavals of the past several years have taught us that uncertainty is here to stay. The question now isn’t how to avoid that uncertainty, economic or otherwise, but how to survive and even thrive in the face of it.
Public relations is often at the bottom of the list of priorities for companies that are worried about rising prices and falling profits. However, in reality, PR is essential to facing these headwinds and successfully responding to any crisis that comes your way.
What Is Public Relations?
The goals of public relations frequently overlap with those of other communications strategies, including marketing, advertising, and sales: strengthening your brand, improving visibility, boosting SEO, and getting your message out to relevant audiences. The best communication plans leverage all of these tactics, but the main difference between these strategies lies in how you go about meeting those goals.
PR strives to gain earned media exposure, often in the form of expert quotes and articles in relevant publications. This gives your brand improved credibility and puts your messages in front of a wider audience. Further, it keeps your brand in front of prospective clients as they see your name again and again in the news outlets and trade publications they trust.
How to Leverage PR During a Recession
When money is tight, companies need to deploy their resources efficiently with an eye toward the big picture. Below are some of the reasons that PR can be especially effective in supporting strategic growth during an economic downturn, as well as some useful tactics to deploy.
Maintain Trust and Credibility
During a recession, as people search for stability, companies with strong, trusted brands will fare better. With that in mind, it is more important than ever to build your brand’s reputation and assure current and potential customers that the business is sound.
In order to build and maintain that good reputation, public relations efforts should focus on building a thought leadership program that shows off the expertise of company executives around issues that matter to your ideal customers. Contributing insightful quotes to an article or landing the opportunity for an executive to write an article or op-ed can demonstrate depth of knowledge beyond a simple sales pitch.
The third-party validation provided by these placements, whether they be in top business outlets or respected trade publications, also assures customers of your respected position in the market in a way that a blog on your own website never could. Awards from respected organizations can also be a valuable means of bolstering credibility, and they should be considered along with other thought leadership opportunities.
Do More with Less
When resources are scarce, it is important to make sure every dollar is invested strategically and with purpose. That is just as true with public relations initiatives as with anything else.
Advertising is one way that companies target potential customers. However, those dollars only go so far. The earned media provided by public relations, on the other hand, can spread your reputation far and wide. When building a strategic PR plan, always keep in mind which publications reach your target audience, and then craft pitches that appeal to those outlets. Those placements will keep your brand top of mind while also leveraging the reputational boost mentioned above.
Collaborate Across Departments to Strengthen Brand Messaging
Consistent messaging is always important, and especially so during times of economic uncertainty. Public relations should work hand in hand with sales, marketing, and the C-suite to ensure that everyone’s efforts are pulling toward a common goal.
Even more, an integrated plan of attack takes the “do more with less” advice to the next level. Not only are you saving money with earned media, but you are also getting the full value out of PR wins by leveraging them on the website, in sales materials, and on social media. An op-ed by your CEO, for example, can be linked from your blog, featured in an email to prospects, highlighted in your newsletter, and promoted on LinkedIn. It can also play a role in supporting SEO efforts with valuable backlinks.
Build a Crisis Plan
When bad news does arise, you need to be prepared to respond. Layoffs, budget cuts, and supply chain disruptions are all common during an economic downturn, along with an array of other possible crises. The most important step here is building a comprehensive crisis communication plan before a problem arises. Decide who will be on your crisis team, brainstorm possible crisis scenarios, and outline plans of attack.
Of course, while a wide range of departments should be involved in crisis planning and response, PR pros need to be at the center of it. They can help train everyone on how to handle a crisis before it happens and run point during the crisis so that the organization’s messaging is unified and consistent. Further, if you have been building connections with journalists and strengthening your reputation with a solid PR program all along, those existing relationships with reporters and your audiences will be particularly valuable now.
Preparing to Use Public Relations to Navigate Economic Uncertainty
With challenges on the horizon, there is no time like the present to build a solid communications strategy for your organization. From strengthening your brand reputation to putting limited resources to valuable use, PR should be an essential part of your communications toolkit.
About the author
Katie Quaranta is a strategic communications professional with extensive experience in marketing, public relations and crisis communications. Her work history encompasses a variety of industries – including more than a decade focused on higher education and educational technology – and demonstrates her passion for promoting organizations that contribute to making the world a better place. Writing has been the core of her career, no matter what the job title, and Katie always strives to tell stories that speak directly to the needs of the audience. Years in media relations have shown that she is calm under pressure and able to productively work under tight deadlines. As a marketing professional, Katie has also worked to plan, develop and execute lead-generation strategies and campaigns, creating content in a wide range of formats, including: • Blogs • News articles • Social media • E-books • Press Releases • Whitepapers • Newsletters Read more articles by Katie Quaranta.