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  • Ann Willets

How to Position Yourself Before the Next Downturn


The coronavirus pandemic is causing widespread layoffs, and the PR industry is not immune. You may be wondering, “How can I shield myself from an economic downturn?” Sadly, there is no surefire way to position yourself so you’re immune to a layoff. It happens to all of us. Even I’ve been bucked off the bull.

When I first started out, I worked in wine and spirits for many years. When that bottomed out, I panicked. I didn’t have experience elsewhere. I was pigeonholed in wine and spirits, and while I’ve been able to gather experience in an array of specialties since, it can be hard to dip your hands in other pots when your agency has also pigeonholed their account portfolio.

There are safer PR verticals like tech, finance, and healthcare, but the verticals that tend to get cut first in downturns are those that are consumer-facing like fashion, beauty, and travel. This doesn’t mean you have to do financial PR and not do fashion, beauty, or travel. It means you should take opportunities to cross-train in whatever areas of PR you realistically can. Of course, this is easier said than done.

My best advice is to be open when you’re looking for your next role. Look for opportunities that allow you to grow your skillset and balance your resume. Don’t exclude yourself from opportunities outside of your comfort zone or wish list for petty reasons. Consider what it could do for your career and your future.

This advice holds true for agency portfolios as well. Some of the hardest hit right now are those agencies that focused on travel and hospitality. Specialization can be both a blessing and a curse. Balance is everything.


Times like these will make agencies revisit their overhead costs. It’s economic downturns like these that make payroll and rent expenses a choking hazard. Even when things are going great, it won’t hurt to be frugal about how much space you use and where you’re spending your money. Think slush fund and virtual employees.

Agencies and individuals should try to find ways to rethink their models in preparation for times like these. Find another area to make money in and get started. You’ve heard it before: Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket.

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