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When the economy is unpredictable, it’s hard to plan. Still, you have to plan. Even when you love your PR and marketing agency, during these times it’s tempting to cut marketing and PR budgets.
I know both sides of this fence. I have been an entrepreneur for 75% of my career, including during 9/11, the 2008 financial crisis and the Covid-19 pandemic. Having witnessed the fallout of shrinking budgets, I learned that taking your foot off the gas doesn’t slow the engine – it kills it, with a slow, painful death. You cannot spare your way to balance or increase your income, which you do need to do is change marketing and public relations strategies.
If you love your marketing or PR agency, eliminating a well-oiled agency will cost you productivity and results when you need them most. If you’re hiring a new agency, these tips will help you get off to a good start and work effectively with your new agency.
Related: 4 Financial Tips to Get Through Times of Economic Uncertainty
When things are going well, brands with lofty goals do everything they can to achieve meaningful results faster. But if you’re cutting budgets, you need to focus on things that last longer. As one of my colleagues once said, “I don’t know why everyone wants to go viral. I want my content to be anti-cancer. I want it to stick and be hard to get get rid of it.” This is the mindset to adopt when trying to cut costs.
There are two types of media that stay forever: owned media and earned media. Your own media is any channel you control where you create 100% of the content, such as your blog or email marketing. Your earned media appears on channels you don’t control, but you create very little, if any, content, think magazine articles and (non-incentive) reviews.
Blog posts and earned media are the super glue of sticky marketing and PR levers. Because they last so long and are client-focused, these are great areas to focus your agency on.
But longevity is only one benefit of this content, reuse is another. For example, blog posts that are listings are great SEO boosters, and you can use a listing to generate lots of social media posts, just like you can with an article that includes your product.
You want your stickiest content to be of the highest quality. If you are cutting your budget in other areas, now is not the time to hire an untested blogger referred to you by your nephew. Now is the time to focus your budget on what you do well. Very well.
Highly useful and sticky content is the most valuable and should be a budget priority.
Related: Use Marketing to Stay Strong in a Weak Economy
Chances are your agency will provide you with a suite of services. Instead of eliminating high-value products, focus your budget on those items to narrow your reach.
Take a closer look at what your agency did this year that worked for you. How did they excel? While you ask yourself this question, think about it in “Make it Sticky” content, but also in areas where narrowing the scope would bring outsized value.
One way to achieve high-value PR is to conduct product-focused PR and incorporate thought leadership and rewards programs in-house. Another idea, instead of working with 15 different micro-influencers, you work with one over a year-long strategic campaign. Maybe your branding company can only produce long-form content and you can create social media posts in-house.
Instead of a quarterly campaign, work with your agency to develop an exceptionally strong, thoughtful campaign throughout the year and focus your efforts on making that campaign exceptional. This brings me to my last recommendation.
Another area that can save you money is fewer meetings with your agency. While meetings are important, especially early in the relationship, this is one area that could save money if you’ve been working with your agency for a while.
Nothing is more expensive than the last minute. If you are reducing your budget, planning can save you a lot of money. For example, if you are planning a video shoot, secure your videographers and editors well in advance with a solid down payment and it will be easier for you to negotiate the rate.
The same goes for your agency contract. Sign up early, whether it’s a new agency or one you’ve had for a while. Signing early gives you an advantage in the negotiation. If you love your agency and commit to the longer term, you’ll be able to get better rates, and even lock in “economic downturn” rates for two years.
Related: 5 Ways to Support Business Growth During a Recession
When they zig, you should zag
To save money and get more for your money, redefine your schedule. Stay away from the dates and times of the year when your competitor is most likely to do something, and instead choose a campaign time when you can own the conversation.
When dominance is your key strategy, you want to track it against your biggest, ambitious competitors, but if your goal is simply to stay present, track your share of voice against a competitor that bites you, one that’s your peer, and one that’s who is ambitious. . For your ambitious competitors, your strategy should be to give up some of your share of voice so that you can sneak into your competitor’s territory. For your peers, you want to maintain a level playing field (if not better) and for your heel-biter, you want to own the conversation so they don’t sneak into yours.
Reducing your agency fees doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Working with your agency to find the right place for your specific needs can be a great exercise in creativity. By altering strategies, outcomes, and products, you can find the sweet spot that keeps your marketing and public relations on track, even during cost-cutting seasons.