Thriving despite economic woes, pitching tips, more

How can small firms thrive in an economic downturn?

Performance in a recession
How can small firms thrive in an economic downturn?
Even if the economy isn't technically in a full-blown recession, most businesses are feeling or expecting a downturn. Ris‘ Birnbaum, CEO of Zcomm, says that by adhering to a few basic business strategies, your outlook and bottom line can stay positive.

"Keep your agency lean and passionate about its work," she advises. "Have candidates ready, but only hire when you have the work."

You can align your business with other firms whose services complement yours. This creates one-stop shopping and can land bigger business, adds Birnbaum.

It is important to be indispensable to your clients, she adds. "Become part of their team, help them brainstorm and navigate through their economic troubles, and you'll be extremely valuable," she notes.

Pitching the media
How can I improve my success rate in pitching stories?
Successful pitching requires knowing the media outlets, their reporters, and their audiences as well as you know your own clients.

"Think like the journalists you're trying to interest," says Steve Shannon, EVP of BurrellesLuce.

To choose a target, use a versatile electronic media directory that lets you quickly identify which outlets and journalists cover the kind of news you're pitching.

Become familiar with each targeted news outlet, too. "If your story has a local angle, fits [or bucks] a trend, or offers a different slant to stories the outlet has done before, make that part of your pitch," Shannon adds.

Also, think about how to reach secondary audiences. "If a client of your PR firm launches a new kitchen gadget, don't just pitch home- or cooking-related consumer press," he suggests. "You might also find a keen audience among editors of marketing trade outlets and business writers in your client's headquarters city."

Employee surveys
How often should staff surveys be administered?
PR pros should conduct employee surveys annually, says Jared Heyman, founder of Infosurv. He adds that conducting them as frequently as quarterly, or as infrequently as every couple of years, might also work depending on the corporate culture.

"You want to administer the survey frequently enough to make changes to your internal communications program," he notes, "as well as to detect changes in employee satisfaction and monitor areas of improvement without frustrating employee respondents."

PR pros should consider their firm's corporate culture and the rate of change within the organization when deciding upon survey frequency, Heyman adds.

One solid option is an annual company-wide staff survey coupled with ongoing employee exit surveys. "This way you can measure and benchmark employee satisfaction once per year," he says, "[as well as] detect any issues leading to employee turnover in real time."

Send your questions to: Please contact Beth Krietsch if you are interested in contributing to PR Toolbox or to suggest ideas for future columns.

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