Public Relations Should Be Your First Line of Defence in Tough Economic Times

There is no doubt that we are living in trying times and in an uncertain and unstable world economy.  A global pandemic, followed by the Ukraine War and its subsequent disruption of the supply chain and increase in inflation the world over, has created a climate of strong caution for investors and businesses alike.

The Bank of England has declared that the country is facing a long-lasting recession, inflation continues to rise and redundancies are back. However, in uncertain times like these PR and media relations can be game-changing in helping startups and scaleups thrive in this high-pressure environment and meet (or even exceed) expectations that investors, staff and customers have on founders.

While on a recent business trip that involved meeting venture capital firms in every market, I found that the common denominator amongst all of them is the fact that their portfolio companies are all worried about the current conditions, are mostly in cruise mode and have contingency plans in place in case their growth projections don’t go as planned.

The statistics confirm this, a recent Forbes report shared that high prices are going to be sticking around for a while. The US Consumer Price Index (CPI), which measures price changes and is a key indicator of inflation, showed that in July, prices were 8.5% higher than they were twelve months ago. Everything from food to gas prices has increased in cost – the price of natural gas is up 30.5% and unleaded regular gasoline is up 44.6%.

Everyone is feeling the pinch and looking at ways to preserve the bottom line. Whether that be by increasing prices, decreasing product size while increasing prices, making employees redundant, reducing salaries or cutting back on vital marketing spending.

While this may help save money, it is important to consider the damage that these steps can cause to brands in the long run. I believe there is a far better way to tackle this problem, and the answer is through Public Relations.

Even though it may seem counterintuitive, PR should be your first line of defence in a recession. Public Relations done well, will protect your brand, will help you navigate the journey of running a business under trying economic conditions, and could grow your business when your competitors are shrinking around you.

Yes, you heard correctly, this is the ideal moment to invest in Public Relations, not cut this spend!

Think about it, in times of crisis, while the vast majority of businesses are cutting costs and dropping their marketing and PR resources, any business that wishes to go the opposite way will essentially have the floor (and mic, really) to themselves.

I love how Forbes said in a recent article, “PR is one of the most budget-conscious, effective and resourceful ways to keep your name out there during a recession. The third-party endorsement that PR creates is a voice that carries through and resonates with audiences long after the depression has passed.”

They also highlight the importance of communicating your story when others are silent and gaining your share of voice. The benefits for your business are that you will be remembered long after the recession and that you will have a smoother and more productive transition when business needs are back on track.

If you look at the crypto space since Bitcoin and NFTs took a plunge, what was a hyped and crowded space a few months ago has become very quiet and it has become virtually impossible for a reporter to find a decent spokesperson to talk about their prognostics around cryptocurrencies or their view on NFTs as a valuable and viable digital asset. 

No one wants to go on the record about these topics anymore, for fear of being proven wrong later, or for not wanting to be associated with a failing market. However, anyone in the crypto space who comments today stands a much better chance of owning the space and becoming a recognized voice in the industry.

PR can be particularly valuable when the story you have to tell stands out either because it’s different from what has been said before, or because it’s unusual or rare. You will have a better chance of grabbing a reporter’s attention if what you are pitching to them is different.

A decade ago, a funding announcement was a massive stamp of credibility for any startup, and that is because funding was so scarce and these stories were truly unique. Today, businesses need to come up with alternative tactics to stand out. A clever PR campaign or bold opinion piece can be a great way for a business to build its public voice and face in the media.

Examples of great PR include Tom’s Shoes who didn’t spend a penny on paid marketing for the first few years relying entirely on PR coverage to drive their brand. They rose to fame with their buy-one-give-one model and were beyond successful with their public relations strategy. For most of 2022, Ukraine has been plagued with war, unrest, and plenty of uncertainty. Millions of people have lost their livelihoods. With the war’s end nowhere in sight, many brands have stepped up to support refugees and those who have stayed behind to support and defend the country., the short-term rental company, hit the ground running in partnering with international and regional nonprofits and governments to secure housing for up to 100,000 refugees. The company has been coordinating efforts to offer shelter and safety free of charge. More than 28,000 people have signed up through to offer temporary housing to others, while Airbnb founders have committed to match donations up to $10 million. In addition (and thanks in large to user-generated social media PR), people around the world started booking rooms at properties in Ukraine as a way to support hosts during the conflict. This movement started as a way to send immediate assistance to those whose travel businesses had been impacted.

The Small Business Saturday campaign, which aims to get people to support and shop at small businesses, started by American Express, has generated much loyalty and warm feeling for the brand because of the sincerity behind the idea.

The right article in the right outlets can also take care of the sales pipeline, brand authority, SEO, discoverability and recruitment, to name a few of the obvious benefits. If you can achieve this, all from the media, I would hold on to that media coverage at the expense of other tools.

Through effective public relations, you can create authentic and emotional connections with your target market and build trust for your brand. This trust will endure long after the difficult times and is definitely worth the investment in the long term.

Introducing Clara Armand - Delille

Clara Armand-Delille

Clara Armand-Delille is the founder &; MD of ThirdEyeMedia, a PR agency that helps startups and VCs scale their brand during crucial growth stages including fundraising and product and market expansion. 

ThirdEyeMedia’s clients past and present include Sorare, Celo, TransferWise, Atomico Ventures, 500 Startups, GoCardless, Badoo, FoodCheri, EightRoads Ventures, 360 Capital Partners, Navya, Cubyn and more.