When Budgets Are Down

Get the Word Out with PR

By Marcia Goff, Precision Marketing Group

In a perfect world, your business would have enough money to advertise in relevant outlets and to sustain an ongoing public relations effort. But if you are like most companies, today your main focus is cutting expenses and generating sales so you can stay afloat and survive the recession.

Advertising vs. PR
Advertising and public relations provide visibility for a business. When you advertise, you pay a media outlet - a trade or business publication, newspaper, radio or TV station or an online company - to publish an ad. When you engage in PR efforts, your goal is to convince these media outlets to cover your business.

Advertising can be expensive. It is also never guaranteed to generate leads, and many firms are finding that it's not worth the financial investment. When budget discussions come up - as they do on a daily basis these days- many organizations are slashing their advertising line item.

PR, however, can serve a powerful role during tough economic times. Because the coverage you receive is free, you invest only your time or the money you'd pay an employee or outsourced expert to create and execute your plan. In addition, having a respected media outlet cover your business provides valuable third-party credibility to your company.

Social media is generating more opportunities than ever for pitching your company story, as the number of bloggers in every industry continues to rise - and these bloggers need topics to write about several times a week.

During a recession PR coverage keeps you visible and helps your company to project a stable, successful image. The worst thing to do when times get tough is to disappear!

Thanks to Marcia Goff, one of PMG's PR specialists, for contributing some great PR tips to this month's newsletter.

Leveraging PR in a Recession
So how can your business take advantage of the power of PR during this recession?

Keep your story simple.
It is always better to send several different, simple pitches than to bank on a single convoluted pitch that tries to fit too much in. A reporter will spend just a few seconds reviewing your pitch, so make it clear and compelling. Make sure it includes why the reporter's audience should care about it!

Use customers, supporters, and end users to help tell your story.
Reporters like to tell real life, relevant stories that focus on the benefits of what you are marketing. Can you share with the press how your key stakeholders are benefiting from your products and services in this economy? How does your product or service help to drive business, save money or address a void in the industry? In a recession, these benefits are more important than ever.

Back up your pitch with relevant, accurate data from trusted sources.
Make the reporter's job as easy as possible by providing reliable facts that support your pitch and show industry demand for your product or service. Example, if you are a wine distributor who has noticed that liquor stores are doing well in this economy, you could find out if the trend is consistent across your industry. Leverage information from industry experts, analysts at research firms, professional trade associations or other third parties that can reinforce your message and underscore the viability of your company.

Show how knowledgeable you are about your industry. Remember one of the goals is to position yourself as an industry expert and thought leader. Demonstrate that knowledge by discussing issues that customers and prospects are facing, specific pain points, etc. If a reporter can rely on the information you provide, you will quickly become a valuable resource - and your firm will receive more coverage.

Tie your story to a trend or current event.
Latching onto a topic that everyone is talking about is a surefire way to get the media's attention. These days, you can't click onto a news site, open a newspaper or turn on the TV without seeing a story about the economy - how it is affecting consumer's buying patterns and lifestyles, what businesses are doing to avoid layoffs, etc. Reporters are under pressure to come up with interesting, fresh stories about this ongoing story, so help them out with a unique pitch.

Understand the competitive landscape.
You should be able to articulate how you fit in your industry and how your offerings are different than other things out there. For example, "Competitive solutions/services are deficient in this type of economy because of A, B, C ...we are overcoming these obstacles by delivering A, B, C..."

Be careful about saying things like "We are the only company doing X." Make sure you have vetted that stand thoroughly so you're not caught by surprise. It's also important to avoid bashing your competition. When talking with a reporter, remember that everything is "on the record" and free game for a reporter to write about and quote you as saying. And with viral nature of the Internet, whatever you say is out there for good once you say it!

Target the right reporter and tie your story to what they have covered recently.
For example, you can say, "I see you have covered the increase in xxx, my company is delivering a solution/service to help address these very issues..." Keep in mind that your story/pitch may need to be adapted to focus more on technical elements, business issues, or end user trends, depending on the angle that a particular reporter likes to cover. Be flexible and accommodating with the press and you'll have a better chance of getting covered in a positive light.