Public Relations in an Economic Downturn

Public Relations Economic Downturn

Why PR is so important for every company in an economic downturn

Posted on: December 1st, 2022

Public relations (PR) and earned media-focused strategies have long been known to play a critical role for organizations in every industry and of every size. The ability to connect and build relationships with targeted journalists and execute pinpoint brand storytelling in front of desired audiences is a highly effective means of getting your story across. And while this effort is maximized when it is integrated into a larger marketing and advertising campaign, earned media on its own is often viewed as more cost effective.

Deploying cost-effective PR strategies, which includes traditional earned media storytelling as well as social media communications are even more critical in a period of economic decline because it helps companies “do more with less” to maximize return on investments (ROI) while budgets are tightening.

Furthermore, effective and ongoing PR during these economic cycles also help position organizations for the long run, as all economic downturns eventually end.

Economies around the world have been struggling

This is especially important today, as the U.S. and global economies have faced immense economic pressures since the pandemic began in 2020. Government-backed incentives combined with tightening supply chains to create a significant imbalance for the supply and demand of goods across every industry for the last few years. This higher demand and strong spending power created a historic rise in the price of goods, and over the last year many governments across the globe have enacted strong increases in interest rates, essentially manufacturing a possible economic pullback to bring down prices.

Companies concerned about a pullback in profits have thus begun to reduce their global staff headcounts and have also begun to slash operating budgets, including marketing and PR activities.

Facebook parent Meta reduced its workforce by 11,000 workers, about 13% of its overall workforce, and Amazon also cut 10,000 employees, about 3% of its corporate workforce. What’s more, Twitter recently laid off half its workforce in addition to many resignations by company employees.

Companies need PR even more in a down economy

Despite the need for companies to align their operating budgets with a reduction in operating revenue and profits, business needs to move forward. They still need to get in front of customers, differentiate from their competitors and tell their story for awareness – no matter the economic climate. This is why PR is so critical in a down economy.

I’ve lived through three economic downturns, with two serving as some of the most severe in the history of the modern economy. The dot‑com implosion of 2001 and the financial crisis of 2009 shook the world and temporarily took down entire industries (technology and finance, respectively). Through each, those companies that continued to focus on reaching their customers and telling their stories were the ones that successfully navigated the downturns.

Following are a few key strategies to help your company continue with PR when the GDP goes south:

Corporate News: There will always be a need to showcase important corporate news, personnel changes, new customer wins, and channel partner alliances. In a down economy this helps to keep the brand name in the news.

Thought Leadership: It is extremely critical for companies to amplify their subject-matter-experts and key executives in opinion columns of key trade publications. When belts tighten this helps to keep the perception of a category leader.

Promotional Storytelling: Companies should continue to rely on PR and earned media to promote interesting data trends, customer wins, partnerships, and insights that support marketing messages and product promotions. This strategy helps to promote additional insights even in between corporate announcements.

Conference Speaking: Companies will continue to exhibit at and attend conferences, and they should be more proactive in meeting with the trade press and securing speaking opportunities at every chance. This helps companies stay in the spotlight, regardless of the economic conditions.

Market Research Promotion: It is wise for companies to leverage the power of market research by conducting polls and surveys to take the pulse of changing consumer or B2B appetites, and then promoting results through PR. This is important as it helps media audiences realize you are constantly leveraging up-to-date trend data as economic winds change.

Reactive Media Resource: The business and industry press will continue to write stories regardless of the economy. Companies should identify which topics they can serve as a media resource and proactively reach out to offer commentary or perspective on trends shaping the news. This can be powerful in alerting the media that you’re a true leader in the industry.

Focus On the Message: In all facets of external communications, companies need to stay true to their key points of differentiation and ensure this messaging is aligned with all aspects of external storytelling. This can be powerful in helping internal audiences stay true to the core of your message.

Social Media: Social remains a highly effective channel of direct communications to consumers, B2B audiences, influencers, analysts, and media. Social campaigns must stay alive in any economy. This strategy tells direct outside audiences that you are remaining out front for their benefit.

Analyst Relations: Like the media, analyst groups will also continue to research companies and build industry reports during down economies. Companies need to make themselves available to key analysts that follow their industry and be willing to sit down for briefings. This is important as it helps analysts see that you’re moving forward even in a tight economy.

(Links in above examples courtesy of Merit Mile PR client campaigns)

The role of PR, earned media, analyst relations, and social media are no doubt pillars of any great marketing campaign when economies are healthy, and profits are rising. However, when economic downturns take place, PR programs are not only necessary, but their cost-effective strategies can mean the difference between surviving and thriving in competitive positions when the economy eventually turns.

To learn more about how PR can help your business entering 2023, please schedule a call with a Merit Mile PR specialist.

Schedule a Call