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March 1, 2023

The importance of PR and branding in a downturn

Technews180 sits down with Frida Fors Wallsbeck, marketing manager for the Nordics region at Meltwater, the world’s first online media monitoring company and social listening company, to discuss the continued importance of PR and branding in an economic downturn.

The global economic situation is tightening, and with it, questions regarding layoffs, branch closures, and budget reductions have been more and more frequently raised. The recession has left a negative impact on each and every business, but public relations is among the most damaged fields. And whilst, according to the majority, marketing and PR should not be a priority during a financial crisis such as the current one, in fact, both of them can save companies from financial drowning. How exactly and why, will be reviewed in this interview with Frida Fors Wallsbeck – the Nordic marketing manager of Meltwater.

Frida Fors Wallsbeck, marketing manager for the Nordics region at Meltwater
Frida Fors Wallsbeck

1. Undoubtedly, during an economic crisis, it is crucial to maintain and expand the spectrum of clients. However, the financial crisis tightens the belts of start-ups and young companies significantly more. What is your advice in such cases for efficient and low-cost PR accessible to young businesses?

- There are two core things to focus on – operations and strategy. Leaving space in your calendar for PR brainstorming and planning is super important. Additionally, a strong strategy to keep you focused and lead you is necessary. This includes having a clearly set goal (as to increase brand awareness) and building relationships with Tier-one outlets and journalists. It is important to acquire an understanding of their needs and gain a perspective on how pieces of your portfolio can match them.

2. By 2008 Meltwater was already a well-established and successful company with a physical presence on every continent. However, as with every other business, the ubiquitous crisis in 2008 had probably negatively affected Meltwater as well. Did the company invest in PR back then, and what were the outcomes?

- PR has always been an inseparable part of Meltwater. Even at the beginning, when the team was significantly smaller and the PR process was blurry, we still, to a very high extent, counted on it. In comparison, nowadays, not only has the team expanded, but also the PR work is supported by tools and clear KPIs.

3. Of course, every recession is different, and PR solutions should respond to the character of the uprising crisis. Considering the recession today, what should companies keep in mind when brainstorming PR strategies?

- Despite the financial times and the economic situation, those building and maintaining a strong brand are always the winners. Strong brands, in most cases, have a red thread of clarity and continuity. A clear and strong message should be on focus when considering PR strategies. Further, exploring the niches instead of spreading ideas widely is also crucial. In fact, building a strong brand does not exclude considering the situation in which the world is situated right now, quite the opposite. In times of war and recession, companies and businesses should be aware of the overall tone of voice. The uncertainty of these times transforms the clear environmental, social, and equality strategy into a necessity.

4. Based on Meltwater’s experience, what do you think is the best approach for start-ups during a downturn – to focus their PR strategies and efforts on preserving existing clients or benefit from the niche and focus on client expansion?

- Considering the cost of winning new clients compared to preserving the existing ones, my advice is to set a strong focus on building communities and strengthening current relationships. However, this should not result in a change of tone and language. The language should be inclusive and simple in the sense that it should be accessible and attractive to readers who are not clients yet.

5. Downturns provoke a rethinking of the already implemented marketing strategies, their efficiency, and brand representation. Should companies be consistent in their brand representation even during global and financial ruptures, or should they reconsider and adapt their brand representation?

- Despite the causes, damages, and outcomes, brand representation should be consistent. Consistency is and always will be the key!

PR and strong brand representation are not just important but crucial during downturns. Despite the widely spread opinion, while the whole financial world is collapsing, companies can discover not only stability but also potential for growth in the face of PR.

The difficult times of recession and downturns are the natural selection for companies and startups – those with strong, clear, and relevant brand representations prosper and evolve, whilst those with weak messages fade away and are forgotten. Harsh but crucial for growth.

March 1, 2023
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