The panicky public and morose media could learn a thing or two from the tech PR scene. Sure, things are tough everywhere – funding is drying up, sales are down, and credit is non-existent. But this is a time for PR firms to shine, and I don't mean that in a deluded, Pollyanna way.
“Those who remain after layoffs are expected to do many times more work with significantly less resources. This is where a PR firm can lend huge value…. Adding $5,000-$10,000 to a monthly PR retainer is nothing compared to fighting to keep $5 million ad campaign.”
It’s important to realize that “PR” has evolved to contribute much more than press releases and media calls, especially in the wake of social media’s rise over the last few years. Broadening the scope of what you offer to clients is crucial at a time when many will be looking to prune budgets and get the most bang from what is often the first cutback target -- marketing bucks. While the talent of ad agencies can be pigeonholed (create+media buy=advertising), PR has become a more versatile, open-ended discipline.
As Sabrina Horn pointed out recently, “…with some clients, there are times when the last thing we actually talk about is PR. Now it’s more about how we can help our clients be ‘social.’” She noted her PR team has expanded with former journos, art directors, programmers, business strategists and marketing specialists to offer that versatility to clients.
There’s not question that it’s tough to get client-oriented stories through the flood right now – it would’ve been difficult had their not been a financial meltdown because of the domination of the presidential election cycle. But shrinking in the face of such a media storm is not the way to go. Hill & Knowlton’s Anil Dilawri urges companies not to back off communications when things are crazy, if for no other reason than to reassure consumers or a target audience:
“Now is not the time to assume the fetal position and wait for the dust to settle. Now is the time to communicate with your stakeholders. That includes investors, analysts, employees, media, governments, suppliers, and others. I can almost guarantee that they will want to hear from you.”
And if you’re not completely convinced that it’s possible to get a story through the blanket of financial coverage or even worth an attempt, therein lies the opportunity to dispense of any bad news your client’s been looking to dump. The White House calls it taking out the trash when they release less-than-favorable news on a Friday afternoon. As NextFifteen CEO Tim Dyson said, a dominating story offers a similar opportunity:
“Of course this does make it a good time for companies to shovel out any bad news they have. For one it will get largely lost amongst all the other noise. It will also be measured against some of the unbelievably bad news that the banks are dishing out on a daily basis, which by default makes it not so bad.”