Since my last post, Spend? During a Recession?, several of you have asked me to comment further on my recommendation that companies keep their public relations activities—and their PR practitioners—going strong during tough economic times.
Gone are the days when public relations was limited to creating and sustaining media relationships, pitching news stories, and issuing press releases. Sure, these activities continue to add value. But today, as interactivity is a requirement for relating with the public, PR professionals maintain a much broader repertoire of capabilities, which help you stay close to customers as their needs grow and change throughout a fluctuating economy.
Consider your customer communications objectives (which are likely to be different from what they were at the time you first engaged your PR firm) and connect with your PR agency and/or internal marketing communications team to discuss how their capabilities can address these objectives. Many firms can add expertise in areas of social media, corporate communications, event management, customer community building, etc. These firms also understand the need to measure ROI, not by counts of leads or media hits, but by real, actionable metrics.
When assessing an agency, become acquainted with the people who will be directly involved with your account. Evaluate fit as if you are interviewing people to work on your staff. After all, they will be extended members of your marketing team.
Do not look for a PR practitioner to serve as your sole customer relationship manager or to replace your subject matter experts. Customer interaction is not one-size-fits-all, so avoid boilerplate PR and social media plans.
Not sure where to start? Check out 12 Things I Need From a Communications Agency from Engage in PR, and get ready to start seeing valuable returns from your marketing communications professionals.