PR is not alone; businesses are freezing and cutting budgets across the board to manage the current uncertainty around the economic environment. Data from the latest IPA Bellwether report indicates that PR budgets on average have reduced as businesses look to control their spending during challenging times.
While no one likes having their budget slashed, it is part of business life. So, when the worst does happen, here are eight tips to help CMOs, PR Managers, Communications Directors, and in-house teams get back on track and navigate a challenging period.
Don’t panic. Plan.
Firstly, don’t panic. Having a budget cut is not the end of the world. Instead, take a step back and assess the business and comms priorities. Good planning now will save time, money, and resource later.
Be realistic with your budget. What you could do previously won’t be possible going forward. Be honest with the business that goals, targets, and expectations must be adjusted accordingly.
If you have one, speak to your agency. A problem shared is a problem halved. Being open and honest with your agency can open new ideas and opportunities you may not have been aware of.
Projects vs Retainers
If you previously worked on a retainer with an agency, then rather than ending it as the budget may not stretch far enough, consider switching to a project basis.
While retainers are always the long-term goal when budgets are high, projects rule when they are cut. Rather than stretching a reduced budget over several months, consider combining several months of budget into one single project fee and use it to make one big splash rather than lots of little ones.
Integrating campaigns is an excellent way of maximising a budget. Significant savings are achieved by repurposing content and messaging across multiple channels.
If a campaign is getting good results via one channel, look at how it can be scaled and amplified across other channels, rather than having multiple programmes running across each one.
Be lean and targeted
Sticking close to business goals and plans will help you operate campaigns and PR programmes as lean and highly targeted. Focus on the messages and stories that matter most to your audiences and will deliver the biggest impact. Do a few things properly rather than lots of things half-arsed.
And remember, don’t make noise for the sake of it. Make sure what you create always adds value to your audiences and your business. When times are tight and budgets are cut, everyone will be watching to ensure every penny is well spent.
Don’t get blinded by coverage
Everyone loves coverage and seeing their name in lights. And while, as PRs, we would always point out that earned media coverage is worth more than its weight in gold, sometimes other channels work better for a given goal.
Awards, social media, content marketing and analyst relations can sometimes offer better value by effectively reaching the right audiences. If you’re unsure of the best route, speak with your PR team.
Keep reporting and admin to a minimum
Reporting and admin are necessary evils. While few enjoy doing them, they are vital to effective and efficient operations. However, by reducing reporting and admin down to a minimum more resources can be put towards generating and creating results.
Work closely with your PR team to understand how reporting and admin costs and times can be reduced and simplified.
Be the labour
Once you have reduced areas such as reporting and admin, it’s worth reassessing what can be handled internally and what needs external support. By taking some tasks in-house, PR and marketing budgets can be freed to focus on the areas that absolutely cannot be done internally.
While this may mean that some tasks are simplified, paused, or adjusted by being done in-house, it will free the budget for what matters – getting results.
Amplify “wins” internally and externally
Finally, a crucial factor to remember when budgets have been cut is to amplify wins. Amplifying wins will help support integrated campaigns and show finance teams and budgetary decision-makers the value and importance of PR. Consequently, sharing the outstanding results achieved today will help regain the budget for tomorrow.
Having your PR budget cut is not a fun experience, but it doesn’t have to be the end of the road for PR activities. Careful planning, an open-minded approach, and close collaboration with PR partners will create ways to navigate the challenges of a reduced budget. Get it right too and you can start to lay the foundations for future growth and regaining the budget you want.