In-house PR execs pull back, maintain budgets for 2009

TORONTO: Scotiabank says it will trim its PR budget next year, as it aims to do "more with less" because of the economy

TORONTO: Scotiabank will trim its PR budget next year, as it aims to do “more with less” because of the economy.

While many experts forecasted earlier this year that Canada might escape the global financial crisis relatively unscathed, analysts from the country's financial institutions have since said the country is tumbling toward a recession.

PRWeek contacted the PR heads of several major corporations in various sectors, and some said they have responded by pulling back their budgets for 2009. They all, however, agreed that they will be looking at ways to get more out of their PR dollars.

"We want to make sure that at the time the bank's various business lines are looking for ways to seek revenue growth with tighter operating budgets, that we are looking at ways that we can get out there and work with those departments to increase exposure through earned media.” said Frank Switzer, director of public affairs for Toronto-based Scotiabank. "It just means we have to be more inventive in how we do things, including using digital media to get the bank's messages out to the right people.”

Outside of the financial sector, other in-house PR executives and GMs report budgets next year will be about level with this year, with some expecting PR to take a more prominent role as they significantly pull back on traditional media spend. “With the economy slowing down, PR will grow in its importance as we try and find unique, meaningful and cost-effective ways to reach customers with our product stories,” Ron Bertram, VP and GM of Vancouver-based Nintendo of Canada, told PRWeek.

The 2009 PR budget for McDonald's Restaurants of Canada will also match this year's, “but like many businesses we'll look for more value and impact from the dollars we spend,” said Richard Ellis, SVP of communications and public affairs at McDonald's Canada. He said McDonald's is particularly interested in social media outreach. In October, it launched, the Canadian version of a successful US program in which select moms go behind the scenes of McDonald's and its suppliers and blog about their experiences.

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