Top 5 Reasons PR Matters in a Recession

Not a secret, we know that the world economy is sloping downward into what we hope isn’t oblivion. Companies aren’t hiring and where my dad works, where they are trustees for the bankruptcy court, business is booming.

One of the first couple of departments to get the axe in the corporate world seems to be communications: advertising, marketing and public relations.

But my biggest question, not even a concern, is why is that? I just don’t get it. We are needed.

Image via Flickr by mare.bowe

  • 1) Value Added

Remember our talk on the Added Five Percent? Well, I wasn’t kidding. Public relations provides a huge ROI; one that isn’t always measured in numbers. Think about it, quality over quantity. A simple phone call or “thank you” note will suffice. The people in PR are trained to analyze, decode and relate messages to a targeted audience. That is their job, that is what they do.

Public relations is one of the most competent forms of communication for changing messages and supervising public opinion. Obama did it with “Change” and the phrase “Yes We Can!” But you don’t really think he came up with that all on his own did you? No, that would be David Plouffe and his team of communications experts.

  • 2) Credibility and Trust

People tend to trust people, more than they trust an advertisement in a magazine. We are humans and we like to be marketed to as such.  This what public relations does. It takes the source and disseminates its message in a unbiased, two-way symmetrical form of communication.

Yes, I said unbiased. Public relations isn’t a propaganda machine or a bunch of SPIN doctors trying to fool you. It’s about communication. Everyone is always looking for trustworthy sources, especially since there are just so many bad vibes surrounding the industry.  In essence, public relations professionals are dependable sources for consumers and companies, alike.

For example, when pirates attacked the Maersk Alabama it was a team of public relations, crisis management, professionals that got the right message across to the public and the families of the people on board. Maersk utilized their team to create a safe, community-friendly and transparent message to diffuse the situation at home and around the globe.

  • 3) Media Relations

Hard news or soft, does it matter? Yes, of course it does and a public relations professional will tell you which method is the best means of conveying your message.

Television, radio, trade publications, newspapers and blogs all rely information, but they are unique to the audience that prefers their specific medium over another. As a business, you shouldn’t sacrifice your long-term goals to meet the short-term ones just because of a fad or a trend.

Believe it or not, Twitter isn’t for everyone and neither is Facebook. Just because Oprah is on it, doesn’t mean you need to be too. Choose your mediums and choose them wisely. Seek advice from a public relations professional if you do not have one in-house.

A good public relations professional will show you that you do not need a huge budget to be successful, rather, you need to understand what you have and work with it. They will help you meet you short-term goals, while, not sacrificing your long-term ones in order to keep your business afloat.

Public relations can keep your business in the public eye, and also work journalists in order to make sure that the best possible message gets out. That being said, it is important that PR pros have a solid understanding of how a newsroom works, the utmost respect for journalists (they are people too, not story-making machines) and know AP Style.

  • 4) Aggression

In a downward economy things just have a way of slowing down, but that doesn’t mean that you need to do so with your messages. Increasing your brand awareness during a recession can actually be beneficial. While the competition is slowing down, you aren’t. A solid public relations strategy will position you for growth — slowly during the hard times, only to speed up when things get better. That’s the beauty of PR, it can take you through the good and the bad.

The thing is, PR should be there through good times and bad. Jumping on the bandwagon of success, doesn’t make you a good communicator, it makes you a follower — a passing trend. The different between good and great is sticking around. Public relations can help you do that.  Too many companies are axing the communications departments to cut their costs.

The best thing for a company to do is to be visible, time and time out — at the end of the day, this is what builds trust, credibility and staying power.

  • 5) Be Strong

The great thing about public relations is that there is the opportunity to say exactly what you want to say, how you want to say it. The strength of your message is often better conveyed via blogs, websites, press releases, ‘notes’ and features.  Blogs, especially, give a more flexible medium for messages to be circulated. With a blog you can say what you want, however you want to say it without any rules…for the most part.

Often it’s pretty easy for people to believe the first thing they hear. News  travels fast. Public relations can communicate the most positive form of a message or compress the damaging ones. PR watches out for inaccuracy, the fatal no-no against transparency.

PR is quick — think about social media. When customers reported a “glitch” via the Amazon Fail scandal, it was their public relations team sent in to diffuse the ticking time-bomb. Within hours, the situation was amended. Granted, amending the situation didn’t help Amazon’s image, but it still rectified itself to some sort of middle ground.

That’s the beauty of public relations, it’s flexible, ever-changing and growing, and shouldn’t be axed to cut costs.

At the end of the day, the rewards earned will be more than worth keeping PR around.

 

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Sasha Muradali runs the ‘Little Pink Book’ . She holds a B.S. in Public Relations and an M.A. in International Administration.

Copyright © 2009 Sasha H. Muradali. All Rights Reserved.

Comments

  1. The most interesting fact for me about recessions? The companies that spend the most money on PR/Marketing in them end up surging out the other side 10x better then they were previous.

    Great points 🙂

  2. Agree with Stuart – PR offers a far more cost-effective alternative to advertising. You can easily get 6 months worth of a strong PR campaign for the cost of a single advert across the media.

    Keep it sensible but keep it running.

  3. Lots of good points in your post. One point to add:

    Regarding credibility & trust where you say, “public relations professionals are dependable sources for consumers and companies, alike.”, is actually a pretty debatable point. People trust other people “just like them” – friends, family, colleagues. In surveys PR people actually come out very low in trust (along with journalists and lawyers, urgh). In PR, we need to be the enablers and facilitators, not the messengers.

    –Don B @donbart

  4. Don, you make a good point about trust. The fact is, however, a few bad apples in any profession tend to bring everyone down. Look at the Catholic priests who abused boys.

    I find it curious that PR people are the first ones to go during recession and often the last ones hired back. The answer in PR is measurement; it’s tricky to measure our effect on the bottom line, because it’s not as obvious as a salesperson’s. In a way, though, PR is sales, just a more methodical and long-term way of selling.

    Instead of hiring more salespeople, more companies should assess their targeted marketing and social media strategies and hire smart PR people to do it. Just three or four PR reps in one company can make a bigger difference than three or four salespeople who are solely motivated by commissions.

    PR people work closely with journalists and can take the public’s pulse when a crisis occurs. The Tylenol case in the 1980s is a classic one of how to effectively do damage control. Tylenol came back stronger than ever and now all of our meds are sealed tight. Think of how many lives have been saved by those smart PR reps.

  5. Very well said, Lisa, very well said, indeed.

  6. I work in govt PR for a city in CA and was shocked to recently get a substantial promotion/raise. So refreshing to work for a manager who sees the value we bring to the table. This is a great list to follow to continue to deliver value in exchange for the taxpayer dollars that pay my salary.

  7. I work in govt PR for a city in CA and was shocked to recently get a substantial promotion/raise. So refreshing to work for a manager who sees the value we bring to the table. This is a great list to follow to continue to deliver value in exchange for the taxpayer dollars that pay my salary.

  8. I work in govt PR for a city in CA and was shocked to recently get a substantial promotion/raise. So refreshing to work for a manager who sees the value we bring to the table. This is a great list to follow to continue to deliver value in exchange for the taxpayer dollars that pay my salary.