Why PR investments should grow in 2009

January 5, 2009 at 10:00 pm Leave a comment

Sally Saville Hodge

I’d like to think it’s true, but the cynic in me just keeps muttering, “Yeah, right.”

Media prognosticator Jack Myers recently issued a report suggesting that the bright spot in the current advertising depression will be public relations. He projects investment in PR to grow by 3% in 2008 and by another 3% in 2009 to over $4.5 billion.

There are a lot of reasons why this should be true.

  • In hard economic times, businesses need to grow their credibility with consumers. You get that with PR, particularly with an orientation that’s geared to inform, versus hammering away with heavy-handed sales messaging.
  • They also need to grow awareness. And while an ad campaign does that, so does a PR program. The difference is that PR features the credibility component, while advertising doesn’t. Furthermore…
  • …a PR program is a LOT cheaper than advertising or the majority of marketing communications programs to design and execute. That’s not to say clients ought to believe the “free publicity” misnomer of one aspect of PR, however. There’s still time and expertise involved, and that carries a price tag. But a $100,000 budget will easily be sufficient to create a robust PR program featuring traditional and social media aspects over the course of a year (providing you stay away from the larger, high-priced agencies). That kind of money will get you bupkis in advertising and not a lot more in some of the more traditional MarCom tactics.

So why am I cynical that the growth Myers projects may actually occur? Well, for one thing, the top dog for communications matters at most businesses is still a person who has a marketing title. As a rule, these folks are still pretty tied to tradition – the tried and true of advertising, direct mail, and the like.

Too many don’t have a great grasp of depth and breadth of traditional public relations approaches, much less how PR applies to the new media world. For example, in an article tellingly headlined, “Social Networks: Millions of Users, not so Many Marketers,” e-Marketer, an online newsletter, has projected a decline in U.S. social networking advertising, but pointedly observed, “Advertising is not the only way for marketers to participate in social networks.”

We’re heading into one of the toughest years for business that I can remember – and 2008 was hardly a cakewalk. PR investment may or may not grow by the projected 3%. But those challenged to do more with less in a difficult climate would be well-served to take another look at traditional and social media PR approaches and adjust their thinking accordingly.

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Entry filed under: Advertising, Business Development, Marketing Communications, Marketing Strategy, New/Social Media, Public Relations, Trends.

Municipal PR, Chicago Style On jargon and buzzwords and really tired phrases

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