Andrew McLachlan
Aug 17, 2023

Cutting PR budgets in a downturn is a fool's game

As we confront challenging economic and social times, it's crucial to recognise the pivotal role of PR in not only weathering the storm but also emerging stronger, opines Andrew McLachlan.

Photo: Getty Images.
Photo: Getty Images.

In today's business landscape, economic downturns, high inflation and reduced spending create an atmosphere of uncertainty. In such times, PR transforms from a communication tool to a strategic cornerstone, vital for brand survival and success. As we confront these challenges, it's crucial to recognise the pivotal role of PR in not only weathering the storm but also emerging stronger.

Times of economic uncertainty often lead to marketing and PR budget cuts. However, history cautions against this reactive approach. Brands that maintain PR efforts during turmoil often emerge stronger, positioned for growth.

Cutting PR budgets can sacrifice long-term gains: Diminished visibility, eroded consumer trust, and missed strategic opportunities.

When budgets are tight, individuals, customers, clients and investors still spend and invest; they just tend to do less of it–so being the destination of choice requires you to stand out more than ever. PR is a very cost-effective solution compared with some other higher-cost marketing tactics.

Trust becomes paramount. In times of uncertainty, consumers gravitate towards brands they perceive as reliable and trustworthy. PR strategies play a pivotal role here. Carefully crafted PR efforts underscore a brand's commitment to quality, customers and ethics. By highlighting a brand's track record, PR weaves a fabric of trust that envelops customers, cultivating loyalty even amid turmoil.

Economic upheavals often breed negative sentiment. Brands risk becoming entangled in this pessimism, eroding their perceived stability. PR possesses the power to alter this narrative. Through communications, integrated media engagement and strategic alliances, we reshape perceptions, converting uncertainty into opportunity. Brands are portrayed as agents of positive change, thriving amid adversity.

Economic constraints typically lead to reduced visibility due to tightened budgets. This dilemma demands inventive PR strategies. Leveraging media exposure, industry discourse and collaborations, PR defies budget limitations, ensuring brands maintain a resounding presence in their audience's minds.

Amid high inflation and tighter household incomes, consumer concerns arise–affordability, availability and product quality become paramount. This is where strategic PR takes centre stage. We transparently address these worries, conveying efforts to maintain product quality, explaining pricing strategies and clarifying shifts in operations. PR bridges the gap between consumer apprehensions and brand intentions.

Empathy sets exceptional brands apart. Through PR, we can tangibly exhibit empathy, displaying genuine concern for customers, employees and communities. Initiatives like philanthropy and transparent communication resonate when conveyed through PR, forging emotional connections between brands and stakeholders.

Economic upheavals bring regulatory changes. Agility in adaptation becomes crucial. Through PR, we communicate these adaptations, articulating the brand's stance on regulatory shifts. We navigate these changes seamlessly while demonstrating transparency and responsibility, enhancing brand reputation.

PR's role during economic volatility surpasses its traditional boundaries. It becomes a beacon of strategic resilience, guiding brands through economic storms. Through strategic communication, trust-building and innovation, PR proves its power time and time again.

Andrew McLachlan is PR director at Media Zoo.


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