Sailing Through Tough Times: How PR Can Set Your Business Apart During an Economic Downturn

Bill Gates once said, “If he was down to his last dollar, he would spend it on public relations.” This sentiment seems particularly relevant now as we start to see a contraction in the New Zealand market, with multiple job losses in the media world and local businesses feeling the bite of an economic downturn. But while cutting back on PR and marketing might seem like a sensible short-term solution, one of the best investments a company can make is maintaining the trust of its stakeholders and customers.

Importance of PR in Economic Downturns

In times of economic downturn, standing out from your competitors becomes crucial for business survival. In a crowded marketplace, effectively communicating your brand’s superiority is key. Public Relations (PR) is an important tool in achieving this goal. Through compelling content creation, showcasing unique value propositions, and leveraging a mix of traditional and social media PR helps businesses differentiate themselves and maintain visibility.

The significance of targeted PR and how it can ensure extensive visibility for your business.

With consumers increasingly mindful of where they invest their money, businesses must establish themselves as the most trustworthy option. Naturally, this prompts discussions about strategy, sales, client retention, and fostering strong client relationships, among other considerations.

Focused PR offers distinct searchability advantages. Being highlighted in reputable publications that frequently appear on the first page of Google search results means that your business is likely to feature prominently on Google’s first page as well. Despite its apparent simplicity, many individuals overlook the fact that achieving this visibility doesn’t necessarily require being a renowned brand or celebrity.

Do you understand the importance of focused PR and ensuring that your business has widespread visibility? Let’s dive in.

Many consumers are paying more attention than ever to where they are spending their money. For this reason and many others, businesses need to ensure that they are seen as the best and most reputable. Naturally—and logically—this leads to informed discussions about strategy, sales, client retention, client relationships and so much more.

Focused PR grants you clear searchability. If you are featured in credible publications that frequent the first page of Google search results, you, by extension, are going to be featured on the first page of Google. While the concept is simple, many people don’t realise that you don’t have to be a famous brand or celebrity to grace that first page.

When resources are scarce, it is important to make sure every dollar is invested strategically and with purpose. That is just as true with public relations initiatives as with anything else. 

Advertising is one way that companies target potential customers. However, those dollars only go so far. The earned media provided by public relations, on the other hand, can spread your reputation far and wide. When building a strategic PR plan, always keep in mind which publications reach your target audience, and then craft pitches that appeal to those outlets. Those placements will keep your brand top of mind while also leveraging the reputational boost mentioned above. 

While some may perceive a recession as an opportunity to scale back on PR efforts, this could be a grave error in preserving the long-term success of a business or organisation. Maintaining communication and connections with key audiences and current customers becomes paramount during such challenging times.

When competitors retreat from PR activities, it presents an ideal opportunity for your brand to increase its share of voice, garner more media coverage, and reassure target audiences that you are equipped to weather the storm.

An Automotive Brand Case Study

PR stands out as one of the most cost-effective, efficient, and potent strategies to keep your brand in the spotlight during a recession. A compelling case in point is how, during the Great Recession of 2007–2009, One automaker consistently conveyed the message that “people love our brand” and continued to share its positive narrative. While competitors scaled back on their PR efforts, the company gained a significant share of voice, becoming the sole mainstream automaker to experience sales growth throughout the recession’s toughest period. By 2009, the automotive manufacturer had risen to become the 11th most popular U.S. auto brand, a notable ascent from its previous ranking of No. 19 just a year earlier.

Top Tips for Using Public Relations During an Economic Decline

1. Managing Change Amid Turmoil

During times of uncertainty, effective communication is essential. PR experts can craft messages and develop strategies to help navigate through economic challenges, preserving goodwill and minimising the impact of unexpected changes such as layoffs or product delays.

2. Staying Visible

Consistent communication will ensure your brand’s saliency and reassure customers that all is well. Silence can lead audiences to assume your company’s demise or instability. By staying engaged with stakeholders, businesses can reinforce their value and stability, driving growth even in turbulent times.

3. Gaining Competitive Advantage

While competitors may retreat due to budget constraints, investing in PR strengthens relationships with audiences, paving the way for future market dominance. There is also more room for your key messages to get cut-through due to less clutter from competitors. Strategic investment during a recession positions businesses to seize opportunities and maintain relevance when competitors falter.

4. Cost-Effective Impact Maximisation

PR offers cost-efficient solutions compared to traditional marketing channels. By reallocating budgets and focusing on owned and social media channels, businesses can maintain visibility without overspending, ensuring a balanced approach to marketing during downturns.

5. Building Trust

Trust is a cornerstone of business resilience during economic turmoil. Targeted PR campaigns alleviate stakeholders’ concerns and foster trust, safeguarding brand perceptions and long-term growth prospects.


While economic uncertainty may prompt a re-evaluation of investment, reducing PR budgets can endanger market share and brand perception. Considering the indispensable role of PR, businesses should prioritise investment in public relations to successfully navigate through recessionary waters.

For more information on how PR can help your business grow, contact Impact PR’s experienced directors today.

If you have questions about public relations, contact us today – we would love to help.