By Anne Marie Scanlon

Widespread predictions of economic doom and gloom still have yet to show up in most of the data. But for those who like to be prepared, it may be tempting to consider slashing your public relations (PR) budget either ahead of time or if the heavy weather eventually arrives. 

But hold on a second! We’re going to show you why that course of action is worth reconsidering, especially if the economy is a bit of a mess. We’ll explore why PR is your lifeline to positive optics, strong relationships, and valuable opportunities–all of which will set you apart from the pack when the going gets rough. 

As a small business ourselves, we understand the challenges businesses face during economic downturns. However, we also know that these periods can be an opportunity for organizations to showcase their resilience and adaptability. This is where PR can play a crucial role in helping organizations navigate through hard times and emerge stronger on the other side. 

During times of economic hardship, the PR function is critical for businesses and organizations looking to maintain a positive reputation and build trust with their stakeholders and customers. It comes down to proactive communication: 

Proactive communication:

  • Creates opportunity to address concerns 
  • Demonstrates commitment to weather the storm alongside stakeholders

Examples of proactive communication: 

  • Providing regular updates on business adaptation to changing economic conditions
  • Highlighting positive news or successes 
  • Addressing criticisms or negative feedback transparently and constructively
  • Regularly seeking and listening to stakeholder feedback through various channels (social media, town halls, surveys, etc.)

In addition to maintaining positive stakeholder relationships, the PR function also empowers organizations to remain relevant and top-of-mind among their target audiences. Just as you might be thinking about cutbacks, so might they. If you’ve been quiet, they may assume the worst. 

It’s critical not to leave anything to the imagination of your target audiences in an economic downturn — shaping the narrative about how your organization is responding to tough times is key. This should involve media relations to secure coverage in relevant publications, creating thought leadership content to demonstrate your expertise, and engaging with social media followers to nurture a loyal community. You don’t have to be perfect, either. Transparent, authentic communications and profile-building beats a spotless–but silent–record.

Just as the sun sets but comes back up again, so too do economic downturns end. But the actions you take during the night affect your organization’s trajectory when the sun rises again. Whenever possible, stay the course, keep your lines of communication open, and trim with a scalpel, not a cleaver. Here’s why:  

After the 2008 recession, the Harvard Business Review conducted a comprehensive study of 4,700 companies. Surprisingly, their findings revealed that companies that implemented swift and extensive cost-cutting measures at the first sign of trouble did not necessarily thrive. In fact, these companies had the lowest likelihood—only 21%—of surpassing their competitors when economic conditions improved.

At Coldwater, we understand that each organization is unique and requires a tailored approach to its PR strategy—and this is especially true during an economic downturn. The old adage that every challenge can also be an opportunity rings true. Our team is here to help.