It comes as no surprise that PR’s reputation has grown during the COVID-19 pandemic, following research from PR Week.
I’ve successfully steered our independent B2B agency through some of the toughest financial crises, including the global financial crash of 2007-2008 and the dotcom bubble of 1999-2000, yet the coronavirus pandemic is the toughest business challenge yet. And that is saying something!
Thankfully, at Spreckley, we have experienced a noticeable increase in new business approaches over the last eight months from B2B technology start-ups and businesses that clearly see the value in global, 24/7, switched-on PR and comms.
Back in March, for example, we started to receive a number of enquiries from both current and potential clients looking to re-allocate marketing budgets in the immediate response to the first lockdown measures.
In particular, those budgets that had been allocated to live events, trade shows and various forms of paid-for outdoor marketing activity were rapidly shifted across to PR and comms activity.
Connected global crisis comms
For Spreckley’s B2B clients, the perceived value of proactive crisis comms planning and fast, responsive, cost-effective and globally-connected corporate PR has rocketed as the pandemic spread.
And we are not alone. I can confirm that many of our B2B PR partner agencies across the GlobalCom PR Network, operating in over a 50 countries, are experiencing the same business trend: in a time of crisis and unprecedented uncertainty, the perceived value of clear, transparent, connected and responsive PR surges.
I know this kind of sounds counter-intuitive and I would not be lying if I said we – like many in the industry – had what felt like an economic heart attack in April. But as things stabilised, budgets got realigned.
Business continuity and ROI is essential
For many clients, both new and old, the overarching PR message throughout the COVID crisis has been that of business continuity.
And this is also why maintaining and strengthening our international collaboration is central to our own business strategy as a specialist, independent PR agency in the post-COVID era.
That’s because now, more than ever before, we see that B2B clients have a need for a global PR network that isn’t hampered or slowed down by inefficient and unnecessary levels of bureaucracy
The impact of lockdown and heightened levels of business uncertainty around COVID-19 has only served to accelerate this need. At the same time, any PR agency (or any network of agencies such as GlobalCom) can only effectively respond to the ongoing crisis in one way: by continuing to deliver a very clear and measurable return on investment to their clients.
ROI is everything in a time of crisis. If you can demonstrate to clients a significant increase in their share of voice, delivering those all-important news, features and mentions in A-list specialist, national and broadcast media, then they will come back for more. As ever, let the creativity and tenacity of your work and your understanding of your clients’ business needs speak for themselves.
As we never tire of telling our clients at Spreckley, quoting Warren Buffet: “”It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”
Right now, many of our client’s business reputations rest upon their short and long-term responses to COVID-19. And “doing things differently” has become business critical. Not just for our clients but us too. New service offerings, new ways of working, new investments in tech to help drive our own growth and new ways of thinking.
As I sit here at home, chatting on Teams with colleagues in an office that’s still open (yet almost empty), most of my team dispersed around Greater London, I can only think what lessons could I have taken from the shocks of the past? Every calamity in human history – from the South Sea Bubble to the horrors of 2008/9 – is different. But one thing is certain – it gives rise to change. I am not convinced we are going back to office life circa 2019 that is for sure. But the role of our industry in fashioning perception is now more important than ever.
Richard Merrin is MD of Spreckley Partners and a board member of the GlobalCom PR Network
This piece was originally published on the PRCA blog here.