I read a compelling article in yesterday’s Seattle Times entitled, “The do-it-yourself recession.” Syndicated columnist Froma Harrop suggests that the economic woes are causing folks everywhere to cut their own grass, clean their own homes, prepare their own meals, and blow their own leaves.  They are taking their kids to the playground and providing their own childcare.  Others are choosing to walk their own dogs or do away with weekly manicures and the luxury of having one’s own hair colored by a salon specialist.  Coty, the maker of drugstore nail products, reports that its nail polish sales are up nearly 6 percent this year.  Meanwhile, Clairol has high hopes for its new line of do-it-at-home hair-color products. Clearly, families everywhere are making adjustments in their spending habits to cope with the changes in the economy.

Small businesses are doing much the same thing.  They are asking the tough questions.  What are essential services, and what services can they take back in-house to navigate the rocky waters of the economy? Clearly, outsourced services that are not delivering a decisive return on investment are ripe for the chopping block as business owners pull in.   In days of greater abundance, it was easier for business owners to declare that they didn’t have time to take on certain tasks or expertise.  It just made sense to outsource them to proven experts. Now, the lines are growing more blurry about what services are essential.  The need for team members to take on more duties — at least for the short term — seems important.

What I know for sure is that staying visible in a demanding marketplace is more essential than ever.  If you have had winning results from your outsourced public relations firm, continue your investment.  You and your business will be well served.  No one ever regrets being featured for their winning ways in the local, regional, or national media — especially when times are tough.

If, on the other hand, you have been disappointed with the results you’ve earned from your public relations firm, have a candid conversation with your supplier and chat about what can be done differently or better to deliver lasting value for your investment.  Make adjustments in your course to deliver a powerful message that will carry in the media outlets that matter most to your ideal customers, now more than ever.

And, if you decide to take the task of storytelling in-house, make the commitment to acquire the necessary training and skills to be effective in your new task.

What I know for sure is that the more you empower yourself with useful tools, techniques, and resources to make the most of your media opportunities, the better off you and your business will be.   You just might find you are very good at enlisting the interest of the media to tell your story.  After all, no one cares more about your success than you do.

And, if you find after a period of time that you or your designated team member are less than effective at telling your story to the media on a do-it-yourself basis, you will develop a new appreciation for those who deliver this service every day.  You’ll be in a better position to ask tough questions when you are interviewing potential players to support your efforts.  You will know more about what is involved from your own work-in-the-trenches efforts to be in a better position to see the value in outsourcing what many business owners consider to be essential and strategic storytelling services.

The do-it-yourself recession that Harrop suggests to be on the way is potentially the best thing that could happen, given the ways that I serve.   I’ve been a work-in-the-trenches publicist/business owner since 2001.  I created do-it-yourself publicity information products to serve business owners who want to help themselves in mid-2006.  I understand the need to deliver value to those who engage my services and the importance of empowering others to help themselves.  The decisions business owners are making for their own businesses are much like those I am making to serve my own.

I’ve strapped on my rocket belt and am ready to fly, no matter which way you want to travel.  If do-it-yourself publicity is an arena you want to explore, you’ve come to the right place.  If full-service PR services are on your agenda, I have room for one more perfect client that is prepared to launch an ongoing, consistent, and inspired journey to greater media awareness and business success.  And if getting some tactical help on an hourly basis is the solution to what ails you, I can provide that, too.  It’s all good.