Facing A Slowdown? Step Up Your PR, Don't Scale It Back
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Imagine you are the chief decision maker of a company that had been doing well until recently, but now finds itself battling a sales slump all of a sudden. What would be the first step that you take to address the situation and improve the company’s financial position and business performance? For most C-suites, the response to this question would involve making knee-jerk decisions to lay off a section of its workforce and/or scale back public relations (PR) and advertising spend.
But does cutting PR and marketing communications costs really guarantee a rebound in sales or ensure long-term business success? Or does it only serve to make a bad situation worse, hopeless even?
When business growth stagnates or declines, it obviously indicates that the appeal of your brand/ product/service among your target consumer segments is diminishing. In some cases, this could be down to previously loyal customers switching to newer more advanced or competitively priced products and services offered by rival companies. But falling fortunes in business, especially in today’s image-driven world, is never solely a function of product value or pricing strategy- fundamentally important as these aspects are. More often than not, declining sales volume is a direct outcome of organizations losing control of their dialogue with customers. This is where PR and marketing communications can be of help, and this is why it makes zero sense for companies to bring the axe down on their PR budget.
PR offers a meaningful and measurable way to build brand exposure and visibility and gives you unrivalled control over the message you want to put out there. It also has far more reach and staying power than advertising, especially in this digital age. In short, PR offers the biggest bang for your marketing buck, but it’s not just about that.
Good PR can help build credibility with the public in a way that paid advertisements cannot, at the same time offering businesses a powerful tool with which to manage their reputation and build lasting relationships with customers by keeping them continuously informed and engaged. Above all, PR can prove invaluable in handling and avoiding negative publicity and coping with crisis situations, while making a tangible contribution to the sales process by generating interest and desire and influencing lead generation through enhanced credibility.
Rather than cutting back on PR and communications spend at the first signs of a slowdown in business, organizations would do well to recognize the turn in fortune for what it really is- a grim reminder that you are experiencing a brand disconnect and the control that your organization exerts over the messages and stories that get shared is rapidly diminishing.
Instead of taking your foot off the marketing pedal in a desperate attempt to cut costs, the prudent and responsible long-term approach would be to do exactly the opposite- step on the pedal ever harder, and put the wheels in motion on a well-considered PR and communications plan targeted at enhancing your company’s image, reaching out to diverse customer groups, and establishing a strong emotional connection with your audiences.
Bill Gates, a man who understands the value of PR in driving long-term growth and profitability better than most people, succinctly put this philosophy into perspective when he said, “If I was down to my last dollar, I would spend it on public relations.” The logic underlying Gates’ famous quip is simple enough- you are not going to recover lost sales, or reclaim lost credibility or market appeal, by cutting down on a few marketing dollars, but you may on the other hand stand a good enough chance of putting your business back on track if you invest in stepping up your PR game and building deeper people connections.