Although we won’t know until September whether Aotearoa has officially entered an economic recession, defined in this country as two consecutive quarters of negative quarterly growth in GDP, the New Zealand share market has entered bear market territory, and it’s safe to say that many households and businesses are already tightening their collective belts in order to better navigate whatever storm may still eventuate.
Similar to embarking on a diet, it’s a case of balancing output vs input: if your business is expecting a period of reduced income, it makes sense to cut back on expenditure. But whilst dialling back the entertainment budget and cancelling the lease on that fancy coffee machine are easy wins, any nutritionist worth their scales will tell you that proper nourishment remains essential.
So where does PR sit on the business equivalent of the healthy food pyramid?
Although it’s completely reasonable to want to hunker down in a bear market, it’s important to not take a short-sighted PR strategy – good PR becomes even more vital when a crisis is knocking at the door. Customers are often more engaged with media content during times of crisis: reading more, learning more, and wanting to stay well informed.
What’s more, customers need regular reminders as to why your brand is valuable to them, especially when times are tough. As they look to economise by tightening their purse strings, a good PR strategy can help ensure that your business isn’t among those to be cut from the monthly budget. Studies have indicated it can cost up to five times as much to acquire a new customer as it does to retain an existing one, so it makes sense to maintain that engagement.
Of course, your competitors may take a different approach – it’s not unusual for companies to dump their marketing and PR plans when economic slowdowns start to bite. If your brand is still out there and continuing to build its public presence, you are more likely to convert those customers to your cause.
A thorough PR strategy doesn’t just cover your external customers: it’s essential that you continue to communicate with your own people as well. When the lines of communication go quiet in an organisation, people start to feel anxious: transparency is crucial for calming jangling nerves and quelling nervous chatter.
Whether you are speaking to internal or external audiences, it’s important that stakeholders know what your business is doing to manage hard times. PR provides a space in which to let them know what’s really going on in your organisation, and by sharing your organisation’s journey through a recession, you are building empathy and connection.
Positive PR acts as third-party endorsement of your organisation and provides an alternate channel through which to speak to your staff, contractors and suppliers. It can create connection and engagement in a way that no amount of advertising can. NSPR has worked with clients who reported that in a year in which they changed nothing other than the implementation of a PR strategy, they increased their sales by 30 percent. That’s the power of well-executed PR.
What’s more, PR often has a longer-lasting impact than advertising: a single interview, published in a local newspaper, could be reproduced in national media, shared on social media, linked in your organisation’s newsletter. In times of recession, people enjoy, want and often need good news stories to counter the negativity of the news cycle.
He aha te mea nui o te ao? He tangata, he tangata, he tangata.
What is the most important thing in the world? It is people, it is people, it is people.
This whakatauki is the basis for NSPR’s kaupapa: the principles and ideas which inform everything we do. We believe that by sharing the stories of the human faces behind the businesses we work with, their customers are much more likely to find resonance with the brands they represent.