Thoughts on the PR Recession

I just heard of yet another PR agency laying people off and this time it hit very close to home as it impacted a dear friend. Damn economy.

Many of us lived through this before during the bust. It was equally tragic then with some agencies being forced to close up entire offices, not just layoff a percentage of their staff. But, as with the last cycle, we saw that downturns like this always breed innovations and movements that lead to big change. The PR industry is not exempt.

PR is in a growing phase. A lot of us are trying to re-define what it means now that marketing, branding, PR and social media have mashed together in several ways. We’re trying to change the image of the value PR brings with executives and the people we work with. We have to get smarter as an industry about developing and communicating a holistic view about our trade.

The last bust taught companies that big fancy PR budgets and agencies to match don’t always guarantee success. But it also taught many of them that stopping PR completely, especially in these very social and online driven times, isn’t plausible. So many of them are downsizing. Cutting agency budgets down or out completely, hiring up in house, or like many in LA that I know, are turning to PR contractors.

All those newly laid off people who have found themselves feeling restless anyway, like they knew there was more to PR than what they were doing, should take heart. There is work out there and there’s kind of a lot. Especially if you’re really good at what you do.
The freelancers I know that are best-of-breed are the ones that get in there and approach the PR strategy from a mile high view and look at how it’s going to help the sales team, the business development efforts, partner and customer relations. Public relations isn’t just for the media.

Other PR shops that I’m hearing are doing really well and are swamped in proposals are the small operations with 2-3 people and then contracting out to specialists for certain projects, like media relations. Retainers with clients can get you anywhere from 3-10k a month for part-time work (25-75%.) And typically you line up 2-3 of them. Believe me, there is a lot of money to be made right now.

So if you’ve found yourself suddenly with a lot of free time and you love your craft and want to get to work then go contract. Go network. It’s pretty easy to run into someone who is looking for part-time help or knows someone who is. VC firms are ripe for that.

In LA a number of start-ups that were incubated over the past 18 months are finally at the stage where they need part time help. They don’t have enough meat on the bones to warrant someone full time but they do need someone to come in and tell them what to do.

The best service you can do for those companies, for yourself and the industry, is to take the opportunity to go deep and really immerse yourself in the business’s strategy and goals. Expand the repertoire of recommended programs. Get creative. You’ll demonstrate very quickly that PR is good for far more casino en ligne than a press hit.

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