Why a PR & Marketing Agency Partner Is Essential When Entering a Downturn

During the Roaring Twenties, Post and Kellogg’s were locked in a battle for breakfast table supremacy. But when the Great Depression hit, Post slashed its advertising budget, while Kellogg’s doubled its own, launching a new product called Rice Krispies, along with mascots Snap, Crackle and Pop. Profits for Kellogg’s jumped 30% to conquer the breakfast table. The brand has dominated ever since.

Whenever a downturn hits, whether due to a recession or otherwise, marketing budgets always come up as an easy place to start cutting costs. But the Kellogg’s story and numerous subsequent studies have shown that despite the widespread approach of scaling back on marketing efforts, companies fare better by not backing down. In fact, those who stay the course might just emerge even stronger.

That’s not to say that companies should just throw money at the marketing department and hope it will get them through. As budgets tighten, marketing and PR efforts must become even more creative and optimized to deliver greater results than before. That’s no easy task, but bringing on an agency partner can be just what’s needed to succeed.

An experienced agency that has weathered previous periods of economic turbulence can lend a valuable outside perspective and a nimbleness that will allow your company to stay healthy and position you to come out of a recession ahead of the competition. Here are four ways a savvy agency can help propel your marketing and PR so that you not only survive but thrive during a downturn.

1. Build Awareness and Nurture Trust

Brand trust has never been more vital for success. Consumers want products and services that they can confidently spend their hard-earned money on, and that’s been especially true through the pandemic, recent inflation, and now as we face a possible recession. One key to establishing and maintaining that trust is with a continued public presence that reinforces your brand’s core values and contribution to the world and the lives of your customers. As other companies trim their marketing budgets, those who execute on strong, genuine marketing efforts have the opportunity to gain share of voice and, ultimately, market share.

An integrated PR and marketing agency partner can craft a cohesive owned, earned, and paid marketing strategy designed to amplify your voice and keep you front of mind as a trusted brand. By placing quality stories and thought leadership pieces in top-tier publications, an agency positions your company’s executives as reliable industry leaders. These high-traffic outlets extend your brand’s reach and authority. This also creates shareable content that will spread your message on social media and provides domain authority-building backlinks to your website, which can further grow your organic search traffic. Targeted native and search ads surround your most profitable leads with your message and can be particularly effective in multiplying the impact of live event appearances. Social media engagement builds your brand’s emotional connection to your customers and is a cost-effective way to boost loyalty. No one has demonstrated that more than Wendy’s. You wouldn’t assume a fast food restaurant’s Twitter account would help set a record for most retweets of all time, but Wendy’s did just that due to its track record of firing off witty roasts of competitors (and even its own customers).

Each aspect of an integrated strategy feeds into the other to ensure your brand is one consumers turn to during uncertain times.

2. Be Nimble

As budgets tighten, it’s essential that you do more with less. An effective, integrated PR and digital marketing strategy is highly targeted and delivers far greater ROI than traditional media campaigns. Leveraging influencers and mounting a successful series of webinars pays dividends in awareness and engagement. While these campaigns can be executed in-house, there are definite advantages to partnering with an agency with the full range of tools and existing relationships at their fingertips. At its best, an agency acts as an extension of your team, allowing you to punch above your weight, no matter the size of your company. Your brand can stay visible while your team stays lean.

3. Get Curious and Creative

Part of doing more with less is rethinking assumptions and the typical ways of doing things. A recession is just the kind of challenge that encourages buy-in from senior leadership to shake things up and look for out-of-the-box ideas. Take Target, for instance. During the 2008 Great Recession, the retailer was falling behind Wal-Mart and its “everyday low prices.” Target pivoted, doubling the amount of store floor space devoted to its food products and increasing its media spend to emphasize these products. Today, food and beverage sales account for 20% of Target’s business.

Bringing in fresh, creative minds can be just what’s needed to inspire your team to see their approach in a new light. A different perspective on your brand and an alternative set of tools and strategies can jump-start innovation that revitalizes a tried-and-true brand or launches a startup to the front of the pack.

4. Focus on Your Business

When you’re examining every corner of your business for ways to recalibrate for a recession, a trusted PR and marketing agency partner can take a big load off your shoulders. As customers’ buying habits change, lead generation and the entire sales funnel will take longer and require greater effort to execute. An experienced ally supplying that effort frees up your internal teams to focus on optimizing processes, honing product portfolios, and paying special attention to meeting customers’ needs by increasing value.

It can be tempting to shift your focus away from your core customers as they reassess how they spend money. While this might deliver short-term profits, it won’t set you up for long-term success post-recession. Instead, look to strengthen bonds with your core customers by nurturing an emotional connection. An agency partner is essential in this process and is able to provide the measurable results that will allow you to resist the temptation to take the short-term strategy. An agency can also guide you on how to maintain flexibility so that you can adjust to your customers’ changing needs while staying true to your established base.

5. Survive and Thrive: Investing in Long-Term Success

It’s often said that limitations breed creativity, and that’s true of business as well. When budgets tighten, ingenuity becomes necessary. That means gaining a new perspective, which can be difficult to achieve for an internal team so close to the brand or committed to a particular strategy. An agency partner can be that catalyst for innovation, bringing a new set of tools and strategies and leveraging valuable influencer and media relationships, while freeing up your internal teams to focus on developing the business strategies that will meet the evolving needs of your customers.

Ultimately, a downturn is a time of opportunity, which an agency partner can help you seize, providing the necessary backup to reinforce awareness and trust in your brand so that you emerge stronger than ever.

“If I was down to my last dollar, I’d spend it on public relations.” – Bill Gates