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The New Rules for Public Relations Changing strategies for challenging times.

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Post The New Rules for Public Relations Changing strategies for challenging times. - April 25th, 2006

During the boom years, high-level public relations representation was highly sought after by companies of all sizes. When the economic downturn hit and executives toiled with last-straw strategies and tactics for identifying hidden profit opportunities, public relations professionals saw their share of pink slips. Now, as the economy continues to rebound, PR is once again in favor.

Many people do not realize that practices that maximize profitability during good economic times are the very same practices that help maximize profits or minimize losses during downturns. A strategic public relations campaign can strengthen a company's position and competitive edge during a weak economy and support sales initiatives during a strong economy.

In an economic downturn, people still conduct business; there is just less of it. Positioning a company as a market leader and measurably increasing media visibility is what successful PR is all about. And businesses that survive will be those with the shrewdest PR strategies, the most creative approach to customers, the highest perceived value, the greatest service during and after the sale, and the fiercest sales force.

When the economy is enjoying a rebound, public relations can support well-established organizations while enhancing the reputations of smaller, growing companies through public education. When the economy is up, so follows the public's spirits. And when spirits are up minds tend to be more open to new ideas. This is a breeding ground for innovative and lively discussions designed to catapult one company over another. A robust economy, by nature, sparks interest in new products and services while offering opportunities for companies to provide thought-provoking and educational commentary.

Among the most effective public relations practices used by successful companies is thought leadership. Thought leadership is the art of communicating a strategic vision to others in an informative and convincing way. Masters of thought leadership will not speak above or below their audience, but directly to them. Understanding their public enables thought leaders to position themselves as experts in their given field while crafting their message in a way that influences their audience in a positive manner.

For many companies, PR is an afterthought to strategic planning and can appear to be out of sync with business objectives. PR should tie into sales, desired results, and should speak directly to the company's mission. It works best (in any economy) when tightly integrated with marketing. And since one person cannot carry out an effective PR strategy, the success of a campaign depends on the support, commitment and involvement of the highest levels within the organization.

Today, the PR industry is under more scrutiny than ever before. The days of building a company on hype and rumor are long gone - as are robust retainers for lackluster returns. In any economy, smart companies scrutinize their budgets. Regardless of the price paid, executives seek quality and return on investment. This puts the PR industry under pressure to show value for every hour worked and every dollar spent.

Tactical public relations should be quick, flexible, and cost effective. Competitive and economic environments can change rapidly and lightening fast response to these changing environments is crucial to the success of any PR campaign. Long-term programs planned a year in advance with exorbitant budgets are a thing of the past. Pretending to know what will happen over the next 12 to 14 months is an unaffordable luxury.

By switching gears and returning to basics, public relations can be part reconnaissance and part sales support. Whatever the economy, PR is a worthwhile tool that can be used to add value to any organization.
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