Time to cut your public relations budget? Think again. M Lento explains why we need to invest in communications in times of austerity.
Public sector news is all about cutting budgets. Cutting budgets means savings, staff reductions and freezing all new strategic and operational priorities. Economists in the UK guesstimate that the trend will continue, to offset stringent government financial austerity measures. This will affect all public sector services – including public relations.
The local government world has seen marcom (short for marketing communications which includes public relations) budgets cut by 20 per cent in the past 5 years as reported in PR Week recently. A trend of PR specific budget cuts of 19 per cent has also been reported. And more is to come.
Marcom and PR budgets are the easiest to point the finger at
Marcom and PR budgets are the easiest to point a finger at, especially since these budgets are considered ‘service’ oriented and what cannot be publically measured is often seen as easy to dispense with.
That is until several crises occur in the public sector. Why were there cuts in marcom and PR budgets when the branding of services and reputation building are so crucial at this time?
Decision makers who cut budgets had a short vision of the importance of communications
My response is - that the decision makers who cut the budgets had a short vision of the relevance and importance of communications. They have not learned the primary rule in public relations - invest heavily in times of austerity…not the other way around!
The public sector needs to realise that marcom and public relations will help sustain their image and reputation credibility during and after the crisis. Without that reputation credibility, the impact is in ‘crisis mode’ in the public eye. Even a mop up campaign ‘after the horse has bolted’ is only a temporary fix.
Nevertheless the public sector has to be warned: the old adage that ‘all news is good news’ is just a fantasy option. Bad news because of no public relations or marcom planning and initiatives will end in disaster. Watch this space…