Monday, December 8, 2008

Recessionary Tree Chopping

I was raking leaves in the yard a few Saturdays back when a guy with a tree cutting company pulled up in his truck.

“I’ll cut that down for you if you want,” he said, pointing to one of the three towering oaks in my front yard.

“I think that tree is still alive,” I responded. “You see all of these leaves. Lots of them came from that tree."

“Yeah, but I’ll give you a great price,” he replied.

After politely declining to chop down an 80-year-old tree, it struck me that times are tough for nearly every service provider. It wasn’t too long ago that I had to beg contractors to come by my house for a few minutes to give me an estimate on a patio replacement project.

How far are professional service providers like public relations consultancies willing to go to secure business? Will we take on any client? Will we be quick to hand over our intellectual property or discount our services?

Those questions came to mind when I came across this promotion in one of my LinkedIn groups. The folks at PerkettPR are apparently offering up a free social media boot camp along with an “incentive-driven three month trial” of services for any client that signs up by the end of the year.

I don’t personally know anyone at PerkettPR and I am sure they are a fine agency. For heaven’s sake though this smacks of desperation. That is not a brand attribute you want to promote as a provider of high-quality professional services, especially during a recession.

All public relations shops are hurting as clients pull back on promotional spending. Any PR executive who says otherwise is either a liar or delusional. There are ways to effectively manage through a downturn, yet publicly announcing that you are rolling back the prices and giving away intellectual property sure isn’t one of them.

As a service provider it’s OK to be aggressive and to cut deals with clients. Just do so quietly to ensure you’re not sacrificing your own reputation in the process.


Elizabeth Sosnow said...

Interesting post -- but I disagree with you. In this kind of environment, I think PR clients and prospects appreciate good counsel on complex topics. I know our B2B clients are trying very hard to understand it. They want our counsel, but they don't want to pay more for it.

Added to that, the social media era simply demands "good giving."

Elizabeth Sosnow
Managing Director

Marc Hausman said...

@Elizabeth - thanks for the comment and thoughts on this.

"They want our counsel, but they don't want to pay more for it." So, I am to assume you are giving away your expertise.

If the reason is to solidify a client relationship and identify other opportunities then I am all for it. If not, then it is simply poor business which is impacting your profitability.

Regarding your comment on "good giving" I would argue that community involvement investment by any business. At Strategic, we provide our expertise and make financial contributions to a number of worthy not-for-profits.