5 Tips for Executing PR in a Downturn

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Author: Kim Jefferson
Kim Jefferson
5 tips for executing PR in a downturn by Kimberly Jefferson graphic

Serving as harbingers of an economic downturn, SaaS investors from Sequoia to Andreessen-Horowitz are doling out advice to portfolio companies and the industry on how best to navigate a market dip. SaaS leaders are getting advice to extend their runways through conserving cash, but that doesn’t have to mean halting mission-critical marketing and brand initiatives. We recently circled up as a PR leadership team to discuss our top recommendations on executing a PR campaign in a downturn.

Look for new ways to showcase excellence

With SaaS multiples dropping from record highs, unicorn status — and funding in general — will be harder to come by in the next two years (unless you’re delivering on revenue in the hundred millions). But now isn’t the time to keep your numbers a secret — look for new ways to showcase sustainable growth, profitiability and momentum: ARR, percentage growth in customers, executive hires, new logos, percentage growth in deal size or headcount.

SaaS spending is up — don’t let off the gas

While it feels like all everyone is talking about is an impending recession, it’s also important to zoom out and look at the larger picture. Gartner is predicting a 20% increase in SaaS spending this year, Salesforce just announced a record quarter and the BVP Nasdaq Emerging Cloud Index still has this group of cloud companies exhibiting strong growth rate, gross margin and efficiency. In terms of your PR program, this means it’s necessary to keep the lights on (and stay top of mind among a competitive set that might be letting off the gas); keep thought leadership flowing and make sure you’re highlighting company news and product developments. When able, use customers to show your solution’s ROI. Downturn may be coming, but it’s not quite here yet, so keep these statistics in mind when the fear of the unknown gets heavy.

Remind your customers why they chose you

Your customers will be reassessing their budgets in the weeks and months ahead. When your name comes up in their budget meetings, will they remember the value you bring? Remind your customers why they chose you: your expertise. Continue to support and engage with them through high-quality thought leadership reminding them you’re the experts in your space and that yours is a relationship worth continuing. In addition to press coverage, consider sharing industry-leading thoughts in other channels like LinkedIn posts or owned blogs. Be honest and authentic in your presentation while highlighting how your expertise can help them solve their pain points and add value.

Lean into employer brand

When times get tough, it’s your team that gets you through. Now is the time to wrap your arms around your people, and show them why your company continues to be a great place to work. Amplifying culture, unique benefits, diversity and employee engagement programs to help employees recognize your business is where they want to be. Consider leveraging a thought leadership piece highlighting your employer brand and pursuing employer-of-the-year-type awards as reminders of any unique initiatives, benefits or perks you have. This will not only showcase your investment in employees to an external audience but also to those already on staff!

Showcase strong leadership

Approaching the end of Q2, sales teams are likely feeling the squeeze. Your founder can help progress the sales cycle and elevate themselves as industry experts at the same time by involving themselves in PR initiatives.

Why? SaaS buying committees are changing. Seventy-three percent of those involved in B2B research and decision making are millennials and 80% of B2B purchasing decisions are based on “direct or indirect customer experience.” Buyers today are looking to connect with something more than a vendor. 

A strong subject matter presence, especially from founders — as described by Dave Gerhardt in Founder Brand — can help shape those experiences and establish credibility with the new decision-makers. This goes beyond the press release: podcast interviews and long-form content are strong pieces of coverage that your sales reps can include in their outreach cadence. Bring your founder forward by writing articles on their behalf based on their knowledge, setting up podcast appearances and encouraging activity on LinkedIn 

A downturn may be the most important time ever to instill confidence in your brand with customers, employees and other stakeholders. Reach out to me, Kimberly Jefferson, if you’d like to discuss strategies for executing a strong PR campaign, even when budgets are tight.

Alex Sventeckis, Grace Williams, Kelsey Sowder, Kate Johnson and Jake Doll contributed to this piece.