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November 09, 2022
There is widespread concern about the economy. Rising inflation, increasing interest rates, and international conflicts – as well as a choppy stock market – are on the minds of the public and widely covered in the media. Many companies have also cut back on hiring, and some are looking to decrease marketing spend.
However, our position is that amidst the current battle between the “bulls” and the “bears,” companies should stay positive. When it comes to marketing in tough economic times, organizations should be “bullish” on PR, social and ads.
Company reputations are built on the track record of the products and services they deliver. And the fundamentals of success don’t go away just because there are broader economic challenges. Great organizations keep executing successfully, despite market turmoil. Recessions don’t last forever, and marketers should focus on the potential recovery, rather than being mired in the downturn.
Understandably, firms may be skittish about marketing during uncertain times, but execs should consider the downside of slashing budgets and “going dark.” Dropping off the radar when times are tough is more likely to negatively impact your reputation with customers and influencers, because this sort of reactive scaling back demonstrates only weakness and helps to create uncertainty. If you’ve disappeared from a marketing standpoint, customers may justifiably start wondering about your ability to service them, and you end up sowing FUD, or fear, uncertainty and doubt, about your own company.
Even in tough times, companies should stick with storytelling. Getting good news out to the public is a terrific way to counter-message the doom and gloom, and brand journalism and PR programs can help convey positive stories. These initiatives should amplify stories that illustrate customer success and should also convey a sense of resilience and confidence. Your best investment right now is in an effort to show that your company is steadfast during the tough times and that it will be there when the downturn ends. Downturns are also a great opportunity to grow your firm’s perception of being “bigger,” through increased visibility. The idea here is to make noise while others are silent, and by jumping into the marketing vacuum that downturns can create, it becomes easier to achieve thought leadership gains.
What’s more, PR people are critical in a downturn, because under-resourced media outlets need PR pros. We’re experts at helping frame newsworthy stories, and thoughtful media relations helps reporters do more with fewer resources, creating a win-win scenario.
Sticking with your company’s narrative can also positively impact recruiting and retention. This is the first downturn experienced by younger (Millennials and Gen Z) workers, and many will observe the companies and brands that went dark. Now – and when the economy bounces back – many potential employees, including high-demand knowledge workers, will surely remember which companies showed stability and stuck around.
Embracing marketing and PR in an uncertain economy might seem like a risky thing to do. But it is a strategy that will pay long-term dividends by helping your firm gain visibility and seize a leadership position when others are “hiding out.” Companies that remain visible during the tough times will be much better positioned for the recovery, not if – but when – it takes place.
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About the author
Curtis Sparrer is a principal of Bospar PR. He has represented brands like PayPal, Tetris and the alien hunters of the SETI Institute. He is a member of the Forbes Communications Council and has written for Adweek, Forbes, the Dallas Morning News, and PRWeek. He is an active member of the National Lesbian Gay Journalist Association. Business Insider has twice listed him as one of the Top Fifty in Tech PR.