Bouncing back after a budget cut

Recovering from a PR budget cut can be challenging. If your budget decreased at any point during the last several years, and you want to get it back to at least where it was previously, there are a few things you can try:

One strategy is to take advantage of a pain point that clients and executives care about: losing to competitors.  If executives think the company is faring just fine with the (smaller) budget you have now, there is no real reason to increase the budget.  But, if you can prove that PR was helping the business stay competitive – and that once the budget was cut, the company lost ground to competitors, you may have a shot at retrieving those lost dollars.

In order to make this strategy work, you are going to need to collect data from the year prior to when the budget was cut. Then, also collect data for the period of time when you were working from the smaller budget – after the cut. You’ll need data for your company and your competitors. Why? Because you need to show that during the time when the budget was higher – you were on par with (or beating) your competitors.  Then you can make the case that once the budget was cut, competitors gained ground and you lost ground.

I should point out that taking this approach with executives means walking a fine line. That’s because, on one hand, you really should be striving to show that your program has gained efficiencies and you’re able to do more with less. On the other hand, you also need to show that adding to the budget will help the company get a foothold on the competitors once again.

Another thing to note about trying to get a budget back on track is that you’ll have to prove there is a real business case for a budget increase. This means presenting some compelling projections to prove that increasing the PR budget will help achieve the company’s business goals. It is critical to convince executives that more money equals more returns, be that in the form of sales, new leads, faster growth.

You may need to go back to square one and ask some probing questions to make sure you have a true understanding of what the actual business goals are. Let’s face it, if your budget was cut in the first place, there is a possibility that there was a disconnect somewhere that caused the cut. So, you want to be sure that you do, in fact, understand what is most important to executives, and you know what PR is expected to achieve. That way you can build a solid strategy around achieving the company’s goals.

Your PR strategy has to be on target if you are going to be awarded more money.  If the sales team is tasked with selling a high margin product – and you’re focused on promoting a commoditized offering because it’s a hot topic – you may need to adjust your strategy to ensure it maps to the company’s sales objectives. 

Part of your strategy for earning back the budget dollars that were cut should be making sure you are completely in tune with business goals, so that you can map all PR efforts to those goals. Showing executives you understand business priorities, and you have a plan to achieve goals and meet PR’s expectations, will help you make your case.

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