When budgets are tight, economic and business climates are uncertain or trending downward, and cash flow isn’t optimal. It may be inevitable to cut investments and expenses.
As we’ve seen in recent months with tech giants such as Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Salesforce and many smaller companies, layoffs are one way to reduce investments and expenses. It’s understandable that a company may prioritize keeping product and sales teams over marketing, public relations and social media teams; without sufficient product development, management, support, professional services and sales teams, customer and prospect relationships, which, of course, bring revenue, may suffer.
However, a note of caution: Don’t overcut or eliminate marketing, public relations and social media professionals and external communications. As you know, communications professionals promote your brand and increase awareness for your customers, prospects, investors, influencers and media audiences. They help your company look great and desirable in the market, and they create and find opportunities for your executives to speak with external audiences and provide thought leadership through content and events. Without those professionals and the brand support and communications they provide, your brand and reputation could suffer.
Brand awareness and reputations can be damaged quickly when not promoted and protected, and they usually take much longer to rebuild than they do to decline. The relationships with journalists, bloggers, analysts, event managers, investors, customers and prospects you worked so hard and invested so much to build should be maintained in an uncertain economic and business climate; it shows that your company is still present and actively engaging in industry conversations and relationships, which usually are a conduit to funding and revenue.
Marketing, public relations and social media professionals and the benefits of external communications are great to have when things are going well; isn’t it enjoyable to communicate good news?
What about bad news? Of course, communication regarding bad news and the underlying events are not enjoyable, but how do you handle it? What do you say to whom, and when and how should you say it? It’s during difficult times that marketing, public relations and social media professionals are possibly even more valuable than during good times. When you encounter turbulence, you want an experienced and adequately staffed communications team to navigate the communications landscape and then create and execute your communications strategy.
It’s true that crises breed opportunities. Appropriately managing communications during crises can help protect and even improve how your brand is perceived. Your share of voice actually may increase during a downturn while your competitors reduce their initiatives and budgets for marketing, public relations and social media. If your communications professionals help you demonstrate that your company is taking appropriate action and staying relevant, you will win more admirers, prospects and customers initially through communications. After that, of course, you need to have the right product at the right time to nurture and close sales and retain customers.
Sitting on the sidelines and watching things play out can be an appropriate communications strategy in some circumstances, but it shouldn’t be applied only to reduce expenses; it should be applied in consultation with the marketing, public relations and social media professionals who are there for you to help support your brand and reputation through good times and bad.
For additional reading, in this Harvard Business Review article you’ll find many good arguments and case studies supporting maintaining your marketing budget in an economic downturn.