In a bad economy, companies look for ways to contract their spending.
When revenues are shrinking, some think that communications and public relations represent “nonessential” business practices that ought to be reined in.
For corporate communicators, this economic skepticism raises questions about what—if anything—we can do, outside traditional advertising, to help consumers feel better about opening up their wallets and checkbooks.
Here’s the reality. While advertising tends to reinforce
purchasing decisions, strong public relations creates
them—and that’s precisely what’s needed at a time when more consumers are focused on what they need, as opposed to what they want.
To help maintain momentum among U.S. consumers, here are five tips for designing communications and public relations plans that will boost consumer confidence in an era of rampant economic cynicism.
1. Avoid going into the bunker
when it comes to communications. Instead, invest and apply your efforts strategically during a downturn to maximize the return on your investment. You can curtail some communications activities and postpone others that may be on the drawing board, but if you go dark in digital, social, or traditional PR in a recession, you risk lowering confidence in your brand.
2. Shift your communications efforts
away from corporate responsibility and reputation issues and toward promoting your products and services in ways that extend beyond traditional advertising. This will conserve financial resources and keep you visible where you most need to be.
3. Talk about value, not price.
Right now, nobody wants to be reminded of how much they have to shell out for a particular product or service. They’d much rather be reminded of what they’re getting in return for their money.
4. Follow the lead of the best food and consumer product companies
by offering more of a product or service for the same price. Reducing prices only conditions buyers to expect bargains and makes it harder to raise prices when the economy picks up.
5. You may note that times are challenging
, but you must refrain from sending any messages that paint the current economic condition as desperate. When consumers are feeling overly anxious, they close their wallets and their minds.
Gene Grabowski is an executive vice president at crisis communications firm Levick. He is also a contributing author to Levick Daily, where a version of this story first appeared. Connect with him @CrisisGuru.