Tuesday, 6 January 2009

2009: Flat is the new up...

I have been hearing a few comments that 2009 will be a good time for public relations because companies will be looking to save money and PR is a better way to reach people for less than advertising.

I disagree strongly. For sure companies will be reducing budgets in 2009, although I believe there are enough people out there that understand slashing A&P to zero is not a smart reaction to a bear market. But this is a time of unparalleled opportunity, a time where brands will be made or broken. And the differentiator, IMHO, will be how cleverly companies communicate – how they explore new ideas and approaches, integrating social media and other innovative ways of reacting to customers and communicating with customers. The winners will be the companies that communicate more effectively with their customers and stakeholders throughout times of uncertainty.

You might think that a recession is a time to be conservative and play it safe. You know, do the things that you know work, perhaps just less of them. But 2009 is going to be an amazing time for those who are brave enough to try new approaches and bring innovation to play, to invest in building their brands while competitors are trying to just protect their brands using old tools and scant resources.

The need to bring a new intelligence into play means challenging existing strategies, tools and relationships. It’s going to mean re-examining the company and its communications needs, adapting processes and strategies to meet the demands of a fast-moving market and embracing fast changes in media and other channels to reach customers and the people that influence them.

This is a good time to bring in experienced communicators to work alongside your own teams, to start challenging the business from C-level down, reworking the way that the organisation talks to its audiences to drive more value into the company’s communications using smarter, technology-led direct communications and online communications tools in particular.

Advertising has its role to play, so does PR. But the opportunity is for smart communicators – whatever their discipline, client-side and agency-side. It's not just about 'this way is cheaper', because it really needs to be about 'this way is smarter'...

This piece originally appeared as one of the chucklesomely named 'A Moment with McNabb' colums in Campaign Middle East magazine.


rosh said...

Interesting read Alex. Personally, I think during a recession, Research companies (a Millward Brown, TNS and the likes) shall do well or better than traditional Advertising, Media and definitely Public Relations.

I look at this way - when Marketing budget is tight, companies would want to know the most effective market and channels to Advertise/PR - and for that, one needs to do robust research work i.e. where can I get the best bang for my buck.

25 fils worth.

sabaza said...

I believe the solution is a lot more complex than simply making a choice of going with one communication channel as opposed to benefiting from an integrated campaign or a marketing mix.

Companies will re-assess each element of the mix for themselves and cut out everything that's a luxury first.

If we look at each of them separately, these are my thoughts for the trends in 2009:

- Companies will no longer advertise simply because they want their name out their or because there's a new global campaign that they need to follow. Advertising will be a lot more region centric and regional offices should have more say on what and when they advertise, how much they spend and what campaign is best to run. It should no longer be acceptable that the global offices enforce strict no alteration policies to campaigns. Relevance is everything.

- Web presence will take a leap and the internet as an advertising medium will become a primary target as it's reach is a lot wider and the cost is significantly lower.

- Companies will target creative advertising media and opportunities and will look for ways in which they can advertise without spending much on just an add. (More bang for buck as Rosh said)

Public Relations:

- A much more efficient communication medium for sure in terms of reaching a specific target audience. It's not as much of a blanket approach as advertising, but companies will, or should (I agree with Alex) concentrate a little bit more on directly reaching their target audience through a strong and well planned public relations campaign.

Events: (This is two fold)
- Events that the companies organize. Companies will not stop doing events altogether, but will be a lot more selective and careful in their choices. There should be a much bigger focus on quality as opposed to quantity both in terms of the number of events a company does, the purpose and the audience.

- The sponsorship market is largely affected as well because in most case sponsors don't necessarily get value for their money. Yes, there are some events in which they do, but companies will be a lot more careful (especially our favorite local carrier which tends to throw money around like it grows on trees and still Alex gets better service on Air Arabia)

- Many companies will start looking at creative event opportunities to start growing their own event platforms, and potentially make money off those events themselves as opposed to simply putting money into sponsorship. It will still make sense for some to sponsor as opposed to organize themselves, but not in all cases anymore.

But what do I know? ....

Anonymous said...

rosh, that would be the rational thing, wouldn't it? The reality is not so.

I wrote a response to the Campaign piece here:


Seabee said...

Working as I have in marketing communications in various places through various downturns and recessions...I'll bring the dead horse round for you to flog Alex.

Talking sense to most companies is pointless, they don't listen.

alexander... said...

Moh'd, you were kind to me weeks ago and I never knew! So thanks for that! :0)

Seabee: I'll keep flogging as long as that damn lazy horse won't get up!!! :)

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