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Public Relations, Investor Relations, and Marketing Professionals: Do More with Less in Tough Economic Times


January 2009

Adapted from "Top 10 Strategies for Boosting ROI Despite Shrinking Budgets and Dwindling Resources"

With economic gloom and doom leading to flat corporate giving and grantmaking, it’s critical for nonprofit groups to maintain visibility and, in fact, take extra efforts to remind their stakeholders, customers, and prospects of their missions and staying power.

Although it seems as if the first budgets to get cut in an unstable economy belong to the marketing and public relations departments, in uncertain times it is more important than ever to connect with and strengthen the relationships you’ve built with your customers and prospects. It’s also key to catching the eye of new prospects and new opportunities.

So how do you do more with less—especially when you’re tasked to perform as before or even better, regardless of fewer resources? Start by taking advantage of a whole new world of untapped audiences, new media, and lucrative opportunities that "PR 2.0" offers. Here are some efficient and highly effective strategies and resources for maintaining strong communications and ultimately adding to the bottom line during tough economic times.

Strategy #1: PR (2.0)—Not Advertising—Is the Strategy of Choice

You can get better mileage from your PR dollar than you can from your advertising dollar, particularly in today’s new media landscape, by taking advantage of today’s "PR 2.0" press release:

  • No incremental or variable cost
  • Shows up in organic listings, which get 94-97 percent of all clicks on-line (versus paid listings)
  • Targets media and consumers or potential donors
  • Directs Web traffic to call-to-action pages

Strategy #2: Maintain Your Brand through a Regular Web Presence

During a recession, it’s important to let people know repeatedly why your brand is worth its value by maintaining regular communications and focusing on your organization’s advantages. Great tools are press releases, search engine marketing, and social media.

Strategy #3: Get Smart with Your Mix of Web 2.0 Tools

If your marketing plan is not shifting toward more on-line communications and integrated programs, you are not fully connecting with your customers. Interruptive, intrusive methods of marketing (e.g., telemarketing, direct mail, advertising) are rapidly being replaced by permission-based, inbound tactics such as search engine optimization, blogging, social media, and RSS (really simple syndication)—your best bet to shave dollars off your marketing budget while increasing your ROI (return on investment).

Strategy #4: Integrate Your Internal Forces for Optimal Results

Align sales (or development) and marketing. Potential customers typically begin their buying process by interacting with on-line and marketing channels before they talk with sales representatives. Many new donors follow the same path. And integrate marketing communications. Target audiences are now mixed in the vast on-line world, where everyone receives the same messages.

Strategy #5: Lower Your Paid Search Costs by Raising Your Search Engine Results

If your news isn’t ranking high in search results when people enter keywords associated with your service or product, you are ignoring cost-effective opportunities to reach potential customers with your messages.

Strategy #6: Employ On-line Communities to Help You Do Your Job

Campaigns focusing on blogs and social media sites can be great low- or no-cost ways to spread your messages and engage people who are shaping public opinion. Organizations will turn to the Web to stay in touch with consumers and supporters during a difficult financial climate.

Strategy #7: Set Goals and Measure Your Results. It's All about Accountability.

When times get tough, there’s typically an increased focus on quantifying ROI. A good place to start transforming your marketing department into a revenue center is by defining measurable goals. If your ultimate goal is to generate sales leads or identify potential supporters, marketers can tap into an assortment of services that track on-line sentiment, segment audiences according to their interests, and even pinpoint individual influencers.

Strategy #8: Get Creative to Keep Your Current Customers or Donors Happy and Coming Back

Clients and donors don’t disappear during tough economic times, but they do become more cautious and value-conscious. They also engage in more comparisons before purchasing or giving.

How can you be creative and think outside the traditional PR/marketing box?

  • Overbalance the scales with offers of knowledge, not sales hype.
  • Define a Web 2.0 strategy now and start executing on it.
  • Consider starting your own YouTube University.
In a Web 2.0 world, earning and retaining trust is much more about offering insight and knowledge first.

Strategy #9: Appeal to News Media with New Tools and Ready-to-go Content

How do you make it easy for journalists on deadline to cover your news?
  • Provide your news via an RSS feed.
  • Fill news holes with feature releases.
  • Offer multimedia content, links to more information, and an all-in-one source for news via a social media press release.
  • Use Twitter. It’s easy to join and log onto. And it’s free and relevant for almost every type of organization.

Strategy #10: Monitor Your Competition; Boost the Inbound, Reduce What and Who May Be Tempted to Stray

"Know thy competition" is always a critical rule of thumb for marketers, but even more so during economic downturns. You need to find out what's being said about your organization, your industry, and by and about your competitors so that you can monitor the equity of your brand and take action to preserve and even grow your brand equity.

If you increase your marketing investment at a time when competitors are reducing theirs, you should substantially increase the saliency of your brand. This could help you establish an advantage that could be maintained for many years.

© 2008, Marketwire. Adapted from "Top 10 Strategies for Boosting ROI Despite Shrinking Budgets and Dwindling Resources." Adapted with permission.