Building relationships on a budget | ParkRecord.com

Building relationships on a budget

by Andrew Kirk, OF THE RECORD STAFF

Advertising professionals like to quote Henry Ford as saying that stopping advertising to save money is like stopping a clock to save time. What they mean is business leaders shouldn’t stop promoting their company just because money is tight.

But the recession has forced many Park City companies to make significant staff reductions, so marketing directors are challenged to perform the same tasks with fewer people.

While many people have lost jobs this winter, including at The Park Record, few are as visible as laid-off public relations experts. They were the face of their companies or organizations to reporters and the public.

Park City Mountain Resort, the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association and most recently, the Utah Olympic Park, have all made cuts across the board that affected public relations staff who were active and visible members of the community.

Chad Saley, president of the Greater Salt Lake Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America, said members of his profession don’t appear to be targeted in this recession, but that marketing departments in general seem to be getting slashed.

"Marketing means so many different things and they all kind of blend together and it’s the nature of business to want to consolidate," he said.

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The purpose of public relations is to build positive relationships and promote positive communication with the public, whoever that may be, he said.

Making that difficult, the means for building relationships have been changing since even before the recession, explained Tom Kelly, vice president of communications for USSA.

At the beginning of his career, Kelly said, the media was the primary method for reaching the public. The Internet age has been changing traditional media as well as providing myriad options for connecting with people.

"It’s a much different landscape," he said. "With today’s technology, direct outreach to consumers is a pretty significant communications medium."

Since his target market is usually the same as that of the media, it’s still beneficial to create messages useful and intriguing to both. For example, all types of media desire audio and visual content, so his office is working to create more about USSA.

Krista Parry, director of marketing for PCMR, said social media tools like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter have become invaluable.

It takes months to launch a traditional print-advertising campaign, but her resort can notify loyal clients of special deals within moments through the Internet. She can tell skiers about April’s excellent snowfall instantly.

"You can change the message with a click of a mouse," she said.

Like many other managers around town, she’s had to take on more duties because of staff reductions. And because her company is preparing for next season to be similar to this one, that multi-tasking isn’t likely to change until the economy shows clear signs of improvement.

That trend has caused Colin Hilton, president and CEO of the Utah Athletic Foundation that oversees the Utah Olympic Park, to be more selective with the messages his organization tries to get across.

"We’re going to be doing more on a grassroots level," he said.

For example, his organization has found that many visitors to his parks are directed there by hotel concierges.

"They’re the first resource that a lot of guests in Park City go to," he explained.

Maintaining positive relationships with guest-service providers around town is paramount, he said.

Despite cuts in areas besides marketing, Hilton said the Foundation is "well positioned" to continue offering services and programs to athletes and the public. The trick will be to promote that fact with a smaller budget and fewer people.

"We can’t go forward the way we were, but we know we still need to do that," he said.