PR and the recession – what is your organisation’s approach?
The results of our latest web poll reveal that almost a quarter of communicators say that communications activity either in their organisation or for their clients has become less important since the recession. This was compared with three quarters who said it enjoyed greater or the same levels of importance. So is this cause for celebration or should we be horrified that so many report a de-prioritisation of communications because of tougher times?
I find it hard to fathom that so many respondents reported that communications activity had become less important, especially when we’ve all seen how an organisation can succeed or fail on its reputation alone. In fact, I would have expected those reporting an increase in the importance of communications to be even higher than it was.
In this I’m not alone. Communications consultant and blogger, Simon Francis says: “Claiming that communications is less important in a recession is the organisational equivalent of burying your head so far into the sand you hit bedrock.
“Not only do consumers and clients react to brand stability as portrayed by the media, but social media listening can provide key insights and early warnings to problems in an organisation.”
Mark Lowe of communications consultancy Third City adds: “With trust in brands at rock bottom, it’s pretty amazing that anyone would think communication has become less important. And those that do should remember that it’s not a zero-sum game. You can’t decide not to communicate you can only decide whether to take communication seriously or not.”
I did wonder if this reported de-prioritisation of communications actually relates more to a lack of financial investment rather than its actual importance to an organisation. For I am confident that communicators are playing a bigger role than ever in businesses. This was certainly demonstrated in our recent Business Leaders in Communications Survey 2012 (BLCS) which highlighted a ‘more for less’ culture currently pervading through communications departments. With 67% of Corporate Communications Directors expecting budgets to decrease or remain the same and almost 8 in 10 expecting demand to increase for communications expertise in the next two years.
So maybe it’s not what you have, it’s what you do with it that’s important? If a natural organisational reaction to a recession is greater scrutiny on the bottom line, then in turn perhaps communicators should place greater emphasis on demonstrating value.
One PR consultant told me this week about the key revenue-generation role that social media has played for one of her law firm clients: “Twitter’s ability to enable direct, personal targeting and build relevant conversations has been instrumental in growing my client’s business. However, just as important has been making sure that every piece of activity from initial tweet through to a pitch meeting is documented – it’s hard work but I follow-up every contact and track its progress because it’s a sure fire way of demonstrating the revenue-generating value of communications,” she says.
So what’s been happening in your organisation and how can those whose organisations where communications is deemed less important engender change? I’d love to hear your thoughts.