WHEN THE GOING GETS TOUGH, YOU HAVE TO 'UP' THE CHEERLEADING BY LIESL SIMPSON, Managing Director at Evolution PR 15 August 2019

It is no secret that many businesses in South Africa are experiencing difficult trading conditions which is the result of a depressed economy. A knee-jerk reaction is to cut costs in a number of areas, but this is most often seen in the marketing department. The irony is that in uncertain times, a business needs to increase its visibility and enhance its reputation to its markets through the media. Cutting costs on PR, part of a company's marketing efforts, can actually exacerbate the situation rather than improving it. In other words, when the team is down, you need to up the cheerleading.

So, why is PR the answer?
PR is one of the most cost-effective ways of promoting your business and enhancing its reputation. It can be incredibly valuable when you have a limited budget to promote your products or services, intellectual capital and successes, as it often delivers more 'bang for your buck' than other marketing activities. These PR activities can be done through a number of initiatives such as thought leadership articles, media interviews (including broadcast) and roundtable attendances, just to name a few.

Public opinion can make or break a business and when going through a tough economic period, the company should consider bolstering their PR efforts. The more the company spokespersons are seen and heard, the harder it is for the public to forget about the company. This builds on the brand's visibility and credibility.

Thought provoking content is key
When a business has built a reputation as an industry leader, it is essential to have continuous thought-provoking content that will further position the company in a positive light. Your audience needs to continually feel your presence as this will ensure that you are always top of mind, even if the business is grappling with challenges behind closed doors. The more positive, informative, and meaningful content disseminated into the public sphere, the better the perception of the business. This influences a prospective client's decision to engage with the company.

Additionally, PR can assist in reaching potential investors. The more your brand is in the public domain, the better your chance of attracting the right investors. Furthermore, a well-executed PR campaign makes your business appear larger and more established, which can help secure legitimate partnerships and funding. This can assist as part of a turnaround strategy to pull a business out of the red and get them 'back to black'.

PR is a vital and reliable tool that will help elevate the business by making sure that the brand has consistent media presence and credibility, creating more visibility, enhancing credibility and supporting the company to grow organically. As a result, PR should be the last thing you cut when trying to remain competitive in an economic downturn.