Recipe for Success in a Recession

11 years, 11 months ago

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The economic downturn has ravaged many businesses. Yet, as Didier Lagae points out, some PR agencies have continued to prosper. What is their secret?



Talking to some of my friends in the PR industry across Europe the other day, we started comparing notes on the impact the current economic situation is having on our respective businesses. We also talked about how much PR 2.0 is actually being applied in our respective markets.

The economic downturn seems to be a double edge sword. Some agencies have been severely affected, while others, like ours, have gotten away relatively unscathed so far. The effects do not seem to be market specific. There are agencies doing really well and others not so much in any given country.

At Marco de Comunicación for instance we enjoyed a stellar year with a 60% billing increase in 2008 following the same growth in 2007. At closure of the third quarter we are actually looking at growth even for 2009, despite a very severe first quarter with plenty of budget cuts.

Uneven playing field

There does not seem to be a sector specific crisis either. Those with real estate or financial services clients have of course been hit harder, but apart from that it is a quite uneven playing field.

Some agencies lost clients or saw budgets being cut in technology and healthcare PR, while others experienced this with consumer campaigns or corporate social responsibility projects. Yet, other agencies have been growing in those same specific sectors. Which begs the question, is it all down to just luck?

Maybe a bit, but certainly not entirely. When having a closer look at the Spanish PR agency market one can see an acceleration effect. Those agencies that were doing averagely well in the past couple of years with slow, flat or negative growth have been hit hardest, while agencies that are making a difference, that deliver great results and award winning campaigns for their clients seem to continue to grow or are at least stable.

There are agencies that actually take advantage of the crisis to invest: in the quality of their teams, in training and development and in fair bonus-based redistribution. There are agencies that are broadening their horizons, by incorporating PR 2.0 tools into the communication plans for their clients and that believe in multi-platform strategies. Not just in traditional media relations. In short, agencies that are truly focused on stakeholder relationship building, driving sales and building reputations.

Many remain stuck

In Spain and in the rest of Europe, especially continental Europe, most PR agencies are still entrenched in traditional media relations. At Marco de Comunicación we left that behind a long time ago.

Building key relationships with B2B and B2C bloggers, coming up with clever seeding campaigns in social networks and online forums or delivering surprising viral marketing campaigns, managing online communities, these are all part of a communication outreach that seeks to alter, improve or boost brands or corporate reputations. That seeks to drive traffic and/or sales.

However, not all clients are ready for so-called digital PR. Some clients have never heard of Twitter, podcasts or social network groups. But that’s OK. It is up to their agencies to lead the way. Not by selling stand alone applications, but by incorporating these tools into campaign styled communication plans.

It helps to see a clever strategy being implemented across the board. To see campaign ideas that actually create news in traditional and digital media and with online communities. And of course, to have a great return on investment.

This is why communication plans, while ideally having a year-long ongoing outreach, should incorporate specific short term campaigns. Campaigns that become drivers to achieve specific objectives.

Results keep budgets intact

Because frankly, if there are results, if there is a return on investment, budget cuts will not happen so easily. Even more, budgets might be increased by clever clients who see the current economic climate as an opportunity.

Those agencies that get it right, that deliver results, that go beyond the traditional media relations and incorporate online PR in the communication plans of their clients, are the ones that continue to thrive even in these difficult times. Wherever in Europe. Whatever the industry sector.


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The Author

Didier Lagae

Didier Lagae is Founder and CEO of Marco de Comunicación, the most awarded independent PR agency in Spain for the past four consecutive years.

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