When markets are down, there's generally always an upside for somebody.
Attracting new business is obviously key to moving beyond stasis. I believe there are three value drivers that will expedite closing the deal in any climate. In the current economy, I believe these hot buttons acquire added gravitas:1. Reputation
When times are tight, clients can no longer afford to take risks on unproven service providers. There's no leeway for error and no budget to re-do a project that didn't succeed initially. It's got to be done right - the first time. Agencies with track records become safe harbour options for cash-strapped clients. Awards also inspire confidence in new clients.2. Delivery
Allied to the above, clients are adamant that they need results. They simply cannot afford to invest in communication activity that may not move the needle. Consistent delivery is the agency's key to retaining existing clients and, in fact, increasing share of wallet.3. Differentiation
What does your organisation do that's different - and better - than a parity service provider? The market has increased its expectations of best PR practice. Clients are now infinitely more demanding as they have rightfully come to expect more from PR and, in fact, all other marketing disciplines. Clients are no longer happy with pure publicity outputs because, although they have tangibility value (the "thud" factor), they don't necessarily translate into meaningful and measurable outcomes.
A reminder that the business basics are: attracting new client business, using the value drivers above; retaining existing business; increasing mandates from existing clients; and adding new services.
The more you do successfully for a client, the more gets asked of you. Don't be shy to proactively bring new ideas to the table. The longer you work with clients, the more you find out about their businesses, the more you can see where you are able to make a measurable difference. Also, a client may only associate you with one aspect of delivery, not necessarily knowing what else you offer in your portfolio.
The advent and importance of social media is also an example of a new arena in which PR firms can expand their service offering. Surprisingly
Finally, marketing cuts have surprisingly been very good for business. I'd suggest that the PR sector is positioned to do very well from the same economic shifts which are proving so calamitous to other marketing service suppliers.
Many clients enter the new fiscal with reduced budgets. Since they now don't have the kinds of monies that would normally generate the requisite reach and frequency in traditional above-the-line ways, these brands are now more open to exploring alternative modalities, such as PR.
And that's good news for everyone in the PR industry.