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Companies that increase PR investments are better positioned to achieve long-term profitability throughout the recession and afterwards by gaining a larger share of voice over competitors.

For some business owners, nurturing a strong profile by investing in PR in an economic downturn can seem a little counterintuitive.

There may be short-term cost concerns and an automatic reaction to cut back, but evidence suggests this isn’t the best course of action (unless budgets absolutely demand it, of course).

Those businesses that slash PR often find it harder to pull ahead of the competition and regain share of voice when the economic forecast starts to improve. According to a report published by Harvard Business Review, it’s those organisations that balance short-term survival tactics with long-term initiatives that come out on top. In other words, ‘going dark’ or overinvesting should be avoided in favour of something more strategically tailored.

Research from advertising experts Field and Binet backs this up. They found that while cutting PR budgets in a recession may help safeguard short-term profits, a firm is likely to be weaker once the recession ends. Companies that increase PR investments are better positioned to achieve long-term profitability throughout the recession and afterwards by gaining a larger share of voice over competitors.

Setting the right tone

It’s not just about money, though. When developing PR strategies during a recession it’s important not to come across as tone deaf or opportunistic. It’s crucial to acknowledge that your target businesses’ stresses – for example, staff retention, supply-chain issues, rising costs – will mean their priorities will have changed and they receive messaging differently. PR communication strategies need to reflect that or they can cause more harm than good.

Previous recessions and crises have shown us that people respond well to businesses that acknowledge the shifting economic landscape in a helpful, empathetic – and authentic – manner. This is where creative communication strategies can play an especially important role. ‘Walking the walk’ is key here – if there’s one thing that target audiences can sniff out at 50 paces, it’s ‘purpose washing’ and opportunistic PR. Beware: as the Covid 19 pandemic has shown us, you may never be forgiven.

Building sector expertise

At Midnight, we spend a lot of time and energy researching client sectors, understanding the impact economic shifts will have on their businesses, and responding to events in the media on their behalf. It’s a strategy that has the power to reach wide audiences, build reputations and establish business credibility. It also helps our clients maintain relevance and demonstrate awareness of audience concerns. By ensuring our clients show they understand shifting priorities, we can help instil confidence in their target audiences.

Maintaining share of voice

We all know there will be some major challenges over the next weeks, months, even years. But letting your audience know that you’re still standing, communicating and being active, and that you will be around for them now and when things start to improve, is important. A strong and appropriate PR strategy can be one of the most budget-conscious, effective and resourceful ways to keep your name out there during a downturn. It’s also the case that media coverage and the third-party endorsement that it creates resonates with audiences long after the word ‘recession’ stops being uttered.

Keeping an eye on the horizon

A good PR strategy will be tailored to help you through a downturn while keeping an eye on the horizon. It will work hard to maintain relations with existing consumers while looking to prospective clients and key audiences. And it will pique people’s interest and allow your business to shine while others are lying low.

Now’s the time to work with your PR strategist to ensure you’re genuinely responding to your target sector’s needs. Let them know you’ll be there for them during the tough times – and when things brighten up again in the future.

Contact us today to discuss how Midnight can help your business.