Investing in PR in a Recession

January 20, 2023 | Amanda Green
By Cynthia Guiang, CMO, Orca Communications

As we head into the new year, all signs are that we will be or already are in a recession. For many, this will mean taking a very close look at their expenditures and doing a bit of belt-tightening to weather the storm. The inevitable questions you need to ask yourself…how bad is this storm going to be/how tight do I need to make my belt? And where can I afford to make those cuts?

I know this isn’t easy. There are so many factors in play including determining if the recession will actually impact your business, how long will it last, etc. None of us have a crystal ball to predict these important need-to-knows, so we’re forced to make some assumptions. One assumption I think you should consider making is that this will pass, you will survive, and you will likely be on the same path you were on before. Perhaps just not as far down or as close to the success milestone you had in your sights as you were hoping.

Many companies have a knee-jerk reaction to an economic downturn. They downsize everything with an eye toward survival. After the storm passes through, you must rebuild. And you can find yourself trailing behind others who were willing to take a bit more risk and push through the storm to keep things moving forward.

I was on a call with marketing executives from several large companies to discuss their plans and recommendations for managing public relations (PR) in the impending recession. They all agreed that an abrupt stop to PR was a bad idea. Since PR is a key tool for brand building and those committed to a long-game strategy, it should not be neglected in reaction to short-term market conditions. Not only might you lose ground, but you also might miss opportunities that could arise. These can include an unexpected increase or at least stability in demand for your product or service, competition dropping out or cutting back allowing you to grab market share or the birth of a pivot opportunity which are often manifested out of the creative thinking that challenging situations can push you towards. In each of these scenarios, a strong and active PR campaign can help you maximize the opportunity.

Despite their advocacy for continuing investment in PR, these company market leaders predicted that many companies, including their own, might scale back their PR expenditures. Cuts are often required across all departments. They saw this as a real opportunity for boutique PR firms, especially those that offer more affordable campaign options. Their words, not mine! This is where Orca Communications does indeed shine. Companies seeking a more focused, hard-hitting approach at a fraction of the big agency fees will find Orca to be much easier on the pocketbook. With agencies like Orca, companies can continue their PR efforts and stay within their reduced budgets.

The most important takeaway these marketers wanted to impress upon their colleagues is don’t be tempted to pull the plug on PR. Keep your communications strong and open with the media. The last thing you want is for the media to speculate on why you’ve gone quiet or perhaps worse, forgotten about you altogether. Even if you lack good news to share, work with your publicist on relevant story angles that can keep your name out there. Continue to be a source for the media, perhaps even sharing insights on how your company is weathering the recession. 

When you come out of the other side of the recession, will you be one of the ones starting over? Or will you be the one who invested in PR to continue your brand-building efforts…maybe even finding opportunities to sprint ahead? A recession is defined as “a significant, pervasive, and persistent decline in economic activity”; however, it doesn’t have to hold true for your company. Many have come out ahead in downturns. All you need is smart decision-making, balanced risk-taking, and perhaps a little luck (and a great PR firm) on your side.