Widen scope to pitch in recession

Whenever I open the paper, flip on the TV, or jump to CNN.com, news of the recession - ranging from statistical data to the impact on families to how the Obama administration is responding - has fully saturated the media's proverbial sponge.

Whenever I open the paper, flip on the TV, or jump to CNN.com, news of the recession – ranging from statistical data to the impact on families to how the Obama administration is responding – has fully saturated the media's proverbial sponge. The truth, which shouldn't be surprising to anyone in the industry, is if your client lacks a strong set of messages, expertise, and/or product- or service-related hooks that can be applied to the economic recession news cycle, you're dead in the water.

Fear not: Opportunity abounds, and, from my perspective, there is more opportunity now than in previous news cycles dominated by a single issue. Since I began practicing PR in 1995, I recall three such news cycles. The first was the OJ case. On the day a client was announcing a major pharma product, there was another development in his case. Media was too consumed by Kato Kaelin's testimony and the ill-fitting leather glove to cover our story.

The second news cycle was during the late '90s dot-com boom and bust. No client with a dot-com story? No dice. Fact is, if you had too many clients with a dot-com story, you might have gone bust, too. The third time a news cycle was so singly dominated was surrounding 9/11, and I'll leave it at that.

But this recession represents the biggest business (and consumer-interest) story of our time. You might have to be creative and resourceful to find the right client hooks, but chances are if you look closely, you'll find limitless ideas and perspectives related to the recession.

Ask a question: What in our arsenal will allow us to dive into this news cycle? These are not times to cut across the grain. Don't force a story that doesn't fit.

Dig deep: If your client runs an amusement park, the story is recession-friendly pricing and value adds. Your client sells widgets? Explore how they are more cost effective than competitors' widgets. Times are tough and the almighty dollar just got even mightier.

Pinch hit: If your client doesn't have a relevant recession-related angle, chances are their customers do. Work tactics around securing the target headline, “Customers of XYZ company reflect on the impact the recession has on the widgets industry.”

Chase ambulances: It's not enough to work your media list. As someone is covering a different recession-related angle, targets need to adapt organically. Keep reading the title and changing your pitch.

Run the end around: Beyond strategic media coverage, clients need business, and you can help them land it. Consider ways to get them in front of potential customers, employing tactics such as speaking engagements and webinars.

Chins up: Obviously, sticking one's head in the sand isn't an option. PR remains one of the most cost-effective components of the marketing mix, and our efforts should not be waylaid by the negativity and doubt surrounding our economy.

Media opportunities abound in this historic recession; we just need to widen the lens.

Ned Ward is a VP in Stern & Associates' thought leadership practice. He can be reached at ned@sternassociates.com.

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