During the most recent recession, it was different than in past times of restructuring. It wasn’t as simple as “taking it in house” or “finding cheaper alternatives.” Public companies and other big brand entities brazenly decided that PR should play a smaller role. Not only were outside firms cut, so were communications departments. Big brands decided to rest on their past reputations in a fast-changing environment for business and communications.
In recent weeks, we are reminded why not placing a priority on PR can come back to haunt even previously well-regarded organizations. Case in point: the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Somewhere along the way, PR took a backseat for the organization that was beloved across the country for funding a cause universally deemed important, breast cancer research. Controversy ensued and the organization seemed ill-equipped to handle it (never mind the possibility of preventing it in the first place). Now, suddenly, PR appears to be a priority because of “damage control.” Komen went from respected brand to tarnished brand in just days, all because, apparently, PR became less of a priority somewhere along the way.
We shouldn’t forget either about Penn State just a few months ago. We witnessed a culture where academic arrogance trumped any care about true communications. Several paid the price with their jobs and the school will continue to struggle with its brand because of a horrible situation made worse in the public’s eye because of how communications were mismanaged. Only after it reached a crisis level did the University bring in outside counsel.
While the big brands have pushed PR to the back burner, small companies have embraced it and are telling their stories and delivering their messages, resulting in business “wins” while the big brands are sleeping. The question is how many more crises need to happen before the giants wake up?