EDITORIAL: Ask questions for effective PR

As profit warnings turn from a trickle to a flood, and the bean counters' red pens hover over any non-essential expenditure, it's worth considering the kinds of PR activities that face the axe.

As profit warnings turn from a trickle to a flood, and the bean counters' red pens hover over any non-essential expenditure, it's worth considering the kinds of PR activities that face the axe.

As profit warnings turn from a trickle to a flood, and the bean counters' red pens hover over any non-essential expenditure, it's worth considering the kinds of PR activities that face the axe.

It would be wrong to suggest that the PR community is facing across-the-board cuts. Bright spots still exist in sectors like healthcare and hi-tech, and especially in disciplines like investor relations (albeit because of the bonanza of business resulting from bad earnings reports).

But in terms of activities, and in a cautious market, PR people are having to account for how much they have spent on every photo, unexpected clipping service invoice and event speaker. Special events and lavish jollies are obvious targets, as PRWeek's 2001 Corporate Benchmarking Survey showed in our last issue.

In this issue, we see evidence of other survival strategies. With the PR industry striving to justify budgets and avoid the need for wholesale cuts of resources, PR execs must focus on efficiency and applying best practice across PR programs.

That's why book store Borders is trimming down its 330 store-based community relations coordinators, creating more of a regional structure, with just 82 people (see p. 3). Effective community relations has always been a key to Borders' success. But a more centralized approach, using technology to communicate internally, will not only save money, it could improve the effectiveness of its outreach, as ideas are shared and lessons learned more quickly.

The other word to focus on is effectiveness. Many PR initiatives are thought up in a spirit of generosity. The thinking behind some philanthropy and social marketing programs can be deeply flawed. We often see charity donations which are doled out, without thought, on the assumption that by giving away money, the company will gain added publicity or create a subliminal, unquantifiable goodwill. Ask yourself this: How central is the charitable donation to the program? Can you 'own' that cause in any way? Will it be remembered by your key audience amidst the clutter of charity donations? And if you cannot prove its effectiveness, have you at least tested it? We think it's time research was done to test the effectiveness of social marketing as an influence on journalists, for example. If a nonstory is being proposed on the understanding that it involves a donation, now is the time to question it.





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