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Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide
Feb 09

The Return of Recession Public Relations

Sean Callahan of BtoB Magazine interviewed me last week about how companies should conduct PR in a recession.  The resulting article can be read here*.

A recession is an interesting time for marketers.  Companies often view marketing as an easy place to cut, yet those companies that maintain or increase spend can pick up market share. Witness Apple.

When thinking about PR in a recession the first thing companies need is an understanding of public relations.  Everyone understands advertising.  Advertising is something you buy.  You can buy more, or less, depending on a variety of factors.

PR, however, is something you do.  It is the marketing discipline most concerned with how a company communicates to its various constituencies (customers, vendors, employees, partners, media, analysts and other influencers).  No company stops doing this; they just stop doing it well.

So what should companies be focused on doing well in a recession?  Here’s my list:

  1. News Optimization: Most press releases are not only worthless but – insofar as they take time and money to create – harmful. Focus on the 2-3 most valuable pieces of news you plan on announcing all year then use the excess time to weave customers, partners, analysts, multimedia content, thought leadership, events and a variety of other components around each remaining piece of news.
  2. Thought Leadership: Your vendors, customers, partners and employees are all worried about your, and their, ability to weather the recession. Companies that position themselves as the people to listen to when things go south can gain mind and market share.  Offer guidance; describe how innovations or new business processes can heighten competitiveness; paint a picture of the path companies need to take to reach tomorrow not just in tact, but thriving.
  3. Content Development: The recession exacerbates problems traditional media have been coping with for years.  Layoffs and bankruptcies – combined with the ubiquity of content development and sharing utilities – means it is more important than ever for companies to tell their stories through video, still photography, audio, slideshows and text anywhere they can.  Every company should be thinking of themselves as de facto publishers.
  4. Internal Communications: You don’t have to be planning a layoff to optimize your internal communications (though if you are, please do).  Your employees are your ambassadors to your key constituencies, as well as the public at large – make sure they’re all singing from the same sheet of music.
  5. Analyst Relations: Your customers rely on industry analysts to help shape their purchasing decisions. The ability to deliver is one of the key components most analysts evaluate vendors on. Shore up your relationships and make sure that key analysts understand how you’re navigating the troubled economy.
  6. Measurement: By all means, use measurement tools to establish the ROI of your PR programs. However, measurement is also a strategic resource that provides the information critical for the development of any sound public relations plan.  Leverage it accordingly.

*My comments may suggest an (attitudinal) resemblance to Alec Baldwin** in Glengarry Glen Ross***. This is (mostly) inadvertent.

**No physical resemblance, except, perhaps, with late-model pudgy Baldwin.

***No link. This is a family blog.

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