PR poised to have the greatest impact when recovery begins

Experts have predicted that this recession could permanently alter spending habits.

Experts have predicted that this recession could permanently alter spending habits. Given the severity of the credit crisis, some are predicting that US consumers will back away from the large-scale lifestyle of recent years – maxed out credit cards, McMansions, and general overboard consumerism – even after recovery sets in. While advertising and marketing teams have used this climate to launch value-oriented campaigns and promotions, it is PR that is best positioned to have a long-lasting impact. (See Marketing Analysis.)

At present, consumers are taking a step back and reassessing their priorities and loyalties. They are researching even the most minor of purchases. As the relationship-builders of the marketing world, communication pros can help inform those decisions by reaching out to reestablish old relationships, as well as cultivate new ones. They can also help to make sure the right conversations are able to take place about their brands. Some iconic brands might not remain when we emerge from the recession, and that will also clear space for new relationships.

McDonald's, for example, is going on the offensive to gain popularity for its coffee. The McCafé coffee-line launch, the fast-food giant's largest marketing initiative in more than 30 years, is an integrated effort that leverages marketing, but it is also a “significant” investment into PR, according to the company. It began its campaign at the local level, reaching out regionally to build up a fan base and “learning” before its national launch. It also brought on ethnic minority-focused firms to help reach all audiences. Such tactics help to build a deeper relationship with the brand and ultimately increase customer loyalty. A key point to remember: consumers are listening very closely right now.

While splashy advertising campaigns can certainly be catchy, today's weary consumers are going to be more strongly persuaded by their relationship with a brand and third-party conversations. PR professionals should take this moment to reshape their brand's story in a way that will resonate long after things start to improve.

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