Public Relations and marketing are often identified as the first port of call for the budget cutting razor gangs that an economic crisis necessitates, but this could in fact be the worst decision you could make.
With the country in the grips of an economic crisis that could slip into a recession, most companies are quite rightly taking a long hard look at their bottom line, but public relations budgets should be protected and expanded, not slashed.
Now, as a PR consultant running my own company, you would expect me to say this but while the cynics out there might say that’s my own bit of spin, it is also common sense.
It is interesting that while the Public Relations Institute of Australia is celebrating 62 years of Public Relations in Australia this year, there remains in this country a lot of common misconceptions about what Public Relations is, how it works and what the benefits are so these are the areas on which I would like to focus in this article.
Public relations is all about reputation and relationships and in times of crisis, which brings with it increased competition across most industries, reputation and the relationships you have with your stakeholders is everything. If you maintain your reputation and value your relationships, then you are more likely to survive a recession and come out the other side stronger.
Public relations is not the same as marketing or advertising, though they often work closely together. Public relations is about communicating with your target audience to improve your reputation, and when done effectively, it can be very powerful. It is now, more than ever that companies need to develop creative ways to nurture their existing clients. After all, they are the best form of PR you’ve got.
So is Public Relations for you? Well, the answer is yes, but what you need, its complexity and the investment needed will depend on your size, the complexity and number of your target audiences and the strategies you undertake.
Perhaps the simplest form of PR is sending out a media release to promote you and your business but the smart PR money is in taking a more strategic approach to ensure that you are investing your time, energy and money wisely. If sending out a release is part of your strategy, you want to be sure that it focuses on the right issues, goes to the right media outlets and ultimately is published in the way you intend. For example if you have a fashion boutique in Brisbane, there would be little point in sending a media release to a sporting magazine in Victoria, unless you specialise in sports fashion and have an online store.
In developing a public relations strategy, like everything, expertise is important so seeking professional advice is recommended. This doesn’t mean it is going to cost you a hefty percentage of your business but a professional will help you shape a strategy that works.
However, you can begin work on your strategy by looking closely at the who, what, when, where, how and why – what communicators refer to as the 5W&H, of what you do.