For businesses and individuals alike, the world’s political and financial situation has created a fair share of challenges. Even if inflation has been decreasing–Forbes reported last month that the consumer price index only increased 4% year-on-year, compared to 9.1% in June 2022–there is, still, a sense of pessimism regarding the global economy, as a Deloitte briefing states.
In response to this bearish outlook, companies have resorted to cost-cutting tactics. When firms are reducing spending, the budgets for marketing and PR are usually among the first ones to be trimmed. According to MarketingDive, brands in countries such as Australia (44%), Germany (46%), and the United Kingdom, with 42%, are slowing down their advertising expenditures.
The reduction is usually a bad idea, because today, PR has become a strategic business function in order to raise brand awareness, which is critical to differentiate a company from competitors and provide increased visibility, which raises the attraction factor for both investors and talent. Also, in times of crisis, consumers value brands that make an effort to communicate with them. Customers view brands as allies, and if a company suddenly disappears, they might feel betrayed, or assume that the firm is struggling and their products and services cannot be trusted anymore.
Therefore, instead of cutting back on PR and marketing budgets when times are tough, it is better to optimize spending in other areas whenever possible. And when money is extremely tight, here are some strategies that can help you boost your company’s awareness and brand loyalty, all for free.
Thought Leadership Content: Delivering Value to Your Audience
In 1996, Bill Gates published Content is King, an essay that predicted that creating content on the Internet would become the technological equivalent of a gold rush.
Almost 30 years after said article, content marketing remains the most powerful and cost-effective way of generating leads, especially in a B2B context. In a joint study, Edelman and LinkedIn found that 90% of C-level decision-makers believe that thought leadership plays an influential role in strengthening a company’s reputation, and that it increases the opportunities that the firm has access to in an increasingly-competitive marketplace.
The good news is that there is a wide array of avenues through which you can get started.
Blogs / Guest Posts: By creating content that delivers educational, inspirational, and informative value for your audience, you are building a better connection with them. Then, you can leverage this rapport to sign them up as customers. Remember, today’s marketplace is very crowded, meaning many more people are selling the same thing as you. Through content, the audience can get to know you, and they can get to find out the reasons why they should choose you and not anybody else.
Besides your own page on platforms like Medium, you can also pitch established outlets to contribute to and build up your name and your visibility. Many top media are eager for new content that helps them stand out. Among them: the Entrepreneur Leadership Network and Forbes Council, as well as Benzinga, TechCrunch–here’s our guide on how to pitch them–Fast Company, and others.
Newsletters: Driven by high-growth platforms such as Substack and bulletins such as Morning Brew, which became a fully-fledged business and boasts over four million readers, newsletters have skyrocketed in popularity.
If published consistently, newsletters are a powerful growth engine to position your brand and your business as a thought leader, and to build a devoted follower base that can open up several opportunities for you.
Podcasts: In Content is King, Bill Gates mentioned that some of the content created on the Internet would need to go beyond text. Podcasts, which have gained tremendous notoriety, are one way in which that vision has come to life. According to Statista, 62% of Americans aged 12 and over listened to a podcast in 2022.
While hosting a podcast can also be a solid engagement driver for your company, another avenue can be to have you or a speaker from your company participate as a guest in a podcast that already has a substantial listener base. This can establish an emotional connection with an audience through someone they already trust–the podcast host–and place your brand at the forefront of their minds.
Events and Speaking Engagements
Strategic speaking engagements are another great way in which you can position yourself as a thought leader and expand your network in a community that is directly related to what you are doing, as well as bolster your personal brand and your company’s public presence. We work proactively to position our clients as speakers in their industry’s top conferences. For example, our client Sergey Gribov, from Flint Capital, recently participated in TechCrunch’s Early Stage event and is going to speak on the highly sought-after TechCrunch Disrupt.
To begin with, you can make a list of all the relevant events in your field. Universities, accelerators, incubators, venture capital funds, trade councils, chambers of commerce and government-funded economic development organizations are usually among those institutions that organize events that aim to bring together the public and private sectors and foster innovative collaborations.
Once you identify those events that you would like to be a part of, do your homework in order to increase your chances of being accepted as a speaker. To gain a speaking engagement, you will need the following:
- Speaker’s short bio
- Key accomplishments
- Areas of expertise
- Topics that can be addressed
- Portfolio of previous public speaking experience
Remember that most planners decide between three and six months prior to the event who their speakers will be, so keep this in mind when pitching yourself or your company’s speaker to the organizers. Also, if you see that some topics or activities have already been suggested or mentioned in the program, stand out by offering something different, or by proposing to join one of the panels or round tables.
Strategic Partnerships & Collaborations
In today’s business world, community is a key pillar of success, and both written or podcast-driven thought leadership and participation in events as a speaker can help you build one. Success stories in a diversity of industries, such as Apple, Whole Foods Market, and Lululemon would not be possible if companies did not have a loyal community around them.
We at Mindset support our clients in securing top-notch industry collaborations. For example, digital fashion startup Seamm developed a collection in conjunction with renowned designer Martina Spetlova, which gained significant traction and was prominently featured in Vogue.
In line with the recommendations outlined above, establishing rapport with the professional community in your field will help increase your chances to secure speaking engagements, grow your audience, and ultimately, position your brand as a member of something larger than itself, something that has a bigger mission and that people can count on. And when people perceive that, as they did with Whole Foods when it was just a fledgling one-shop business in Austin, they will go to great lengths to help you thrive, no matter what happens.
During challenging economic times, cutting back on PR and marketing budgets may seem like a quick, fear-driven response, but ultimately, it can have negative consequences for your business. Instead, focus on optimizing spending and implementing cost-effective strategies.
Through thought leadership content, participation in events and speaking engagements, and strategic partnerships, you can help your business maintain its brand awareness, differentiate itself from its competitors, and increase customer trust. By investing strategically in these approaches, your company will be able to navigate tough times while still achieving effective results and positioning itself for long-term success.