Tips for Dealing with the Crazy Market
No, I'm not going to provide financial advice. As the head of a PR agency whose employees and clients closely follow all media events and trends, I'd like to make some suggestions for how to handle the current barrage of negative news.
Step One: Turn off the 24 hour news channels.
But you're a PR agency. Shouldn't you be constantly monitoring the news?
My response is that we are monitoring real news, but very little of what CNN and other 'round-the-clock channels are reporting right now is actually new information. Instead, they are forced to fill the airwaves with rehashes and, in some cases, sensationalization of the already reported news. We have a large flat-screen TV in our break room at the agency and it has been on almost constantly for the past week. Observing people's body language as they sneak a peek at the headlines while they grab a cup of coffee or eat lunch, it was clear that this continual negative drumbeat was not helping matters. Today the TV is turned off and, amazingly, we are all still able to do our jobs, albeit with a slightly more hopeful demeanor.
Step Two: Remember: We have lived through tough times before and the strong have survived.
Our own tech market had a horrific meltdown caused by the bursting of the dot com bubble in 2001. When combined with the "day the earth stood still" feeling and aftershocks of the events of 9/11/2001, it was nuclear winter in our segment for quite a long time. We slowly but surely adjusted, dealt with the adjustments to the market, and moved on to better days. And those days did come. It will happen again. It will just take time.
Step Three: Be prudent with your cost cutting, but don't cut programs that you need to grow.
Even companies that are doing well -- and that includes agencies -- are looking at their costs right now and making calls about what expenditures make sense and which ones should be postponed until 2009. A joke writer in a very funny movie about the days of live television, "My Favorite Year" said that when editing scripts, "You NEVER cut funny!" The same no-cut rule should apply to investments in areas that help you maintain your competitive edge and grow. You don't want to cut marketing and sales when you need to position yourself strongly to customers determining where to spend limited dollars. Even within marketing, you want to make sure you invest in the right elements of your mix. I'm completely biased, of course, but it's been proven time and time again that PR is the most cost-effective marketing spend. The value of the awareness, influence and coverage that PR creates to generate leads far exceeds its cost.
Step Four: Don't worry about what you cannot control.
That's advice that was given to me recently by my youngest, who is 15. He's so right. What you can control right now is to stay focused on the right revenue-generating activities and the expenditures that strengthen your market position. You also can control how you take advantage of your competitors' over-reaction to market conditions by grabbing more mind-share from them. If they have unnecessarily gone dark in the media, fill that gap. Show the market who is the stronger player.
Step Five: Keep your sense of humor intact.
The athlete who stays loose and doesn't tense up will play better and avoid injury. The companies and professionals who stay composed and confident, even when conditions seem unsettled, will come out stronger as the situation improves. It worked that way in 2001 and there is absolutely no reason to believe it will not happen again.
And if you really want to take advantage of those great flat-screen TVs we all have invested in, keep them on, but tune them to sports channels. Their news reports are much more palatable right now.