Sometimes Budget Problems Are the Best Problems

Make Surplus Time the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Does this describe you? All year you meticulously plan, scrimp, cut hours, draft detailed scopes and project management templates to maximize your budget and minimize inefficiency. Then you get a call that a sudden windfall has landed in your lap, but there are conditions. You must spend these funds before the end of the year and you must spend them in a way that is beneficial to you, your company and your staff. What to do?

As public relations consultants, we see the “use it or lose it spending spree” by our clients from time to time. Instead of a chaotic, ad-hoc pre-pay, consider taking a more strategic approach: invest in communications and marketing services that can pay dividends throughout the following year.

Echo Strategic Goals

Often communications and marketing services are some of the first to get cut during budget negotiations. While we understand the reality of the bottom line, it’s important to remember that these services are instrumental to the success of businesses, foundations and nonprofits. Using surplus funds on communications efforts that reinforce overall strategic goals is not only smart, but it’s a forward-thinking strategy with long-term implications.

“Using surplus funds on communications efforts that reinforce overall strategic goals is not only smart, but it’s a forward-thinking strategy with long-term implications.”

Look Back to Move Forward

An earned media website or a technical SEO audit is a cost-effective way to use surplus funds. A fresh eye on your communications efforts, informed by data, can be incredibly effective to unearth best practices, move to the next level and identify missing pieces.

For a modest investment, a media audit can analyze your earned media mentions for the year and evaluate:

  • The return on investment for past media engagements;
  • Score a select number of media hits and explain what makes coverage in Mass Transit or METRO Magazine more valuable than USA Today if you’re trying to reach city planners and municipal leaders looking for new transit solutions; and
  • Missed opportunities to showcase thought leadership.

Another helpful tool is a competitor analysis. For example, if you’re a conservation nonprofit, what types of media coverage were spokespeople for your competitors quoted in or what types of stories did your competitors generate?

Taking stock of the current state of affairs is a good first step at being more strategic in the year to come.

Use Extra Funds to Plan Ahead

In the 1960s screenwriter Sidney Carroll wrote the award-winning western, “A Big Hand for the Little Lady,” and one of his characters said: “A bargain ain’t a bargain unless it’s something you need.” Surplus funds, while a boon, should be used in the pursuit of a skill or service you need.

Do you:

  • Struggle with blog ideas?
  • Want to launch an Instagram page, but don’t have the time?
  • Spend an hour searching for the right photo to accompany web content, twice a week?

If your answer is yes, consider:

  • Using the extra budget to hire an outside vendor to outline a new blog post series or draft evergreen content for your social media platforms;
  • Invest in stock photography or ghost-written content to beef up your organization’s personal resource library;
  • Taking inventory of your current suite of marketing tools and see if there’s new software on the market that can make next year’s efforts easier and more efficient; or
  • Researching professional development opportunities. Is there a class, seminar or conference that you or your team would benefit from? Continuing education, in any form, can jumpstart ideas and elevate everyone’s game.

Here at Proof Strategies, we pride ourselves on asking better questions, so our clients have robust answers to inform their objectives and business outcomes. Visit the Services section of our website to learn more about our innovative approaches to product launches, message development, digital marketing, earned media and much more.

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