Danny Rogers: 2010 was a difficult but fascinating year

And so we approach the end of another tumultuous year in the PR business. A year in which we saw two of the biggest corporate crises of the 21st century so far, a new coalition Government and the latest steps in the technological revolution that continues to tear up the textbooks.

Danny Rogers
Danny Rogers

This narrative has highlighted the comms challenges of our age. During its product recall, Toyota's global crisis ability was found lacking; BP's oil spill showed us the levels of scrutiny and pressure facing a modern CEO; and the coalition has demonstrated the benefit of comms discipline in difficult times.

We don't have the figures yet, but it feels like the PR consultancy business had a better year than in 2009. While most consultancies failed to see revenues return to pre-recession levels, most kept a close eye on their costs, so a slight uplift in revenues led to improved profitability.

But there is still uncertainly out there, with ambitious, innovative client-led projects thin on the ground. I hear many reports of postponed - or cancelled - projects and clients have been vigorously renegotiating retainer fees.

Of course, the biggest shift in comms spend has occurred in the public sector. In many cases, government campaigns have disappeared, in other areas spend has been decimated. Consultancies reliant on the public sector have had to adapt to make up the deficit in private sector clients (Blue Rubicon, Red Consultancy, 3 Monkeys); make adjustments in headcount (Fishburn Hedges, Band & Brown) or completely restructure their business (Kindred).

On the other hand, growing interest in social media has provided a boost to many in-house PR teams and consultancies, as organisations have struggled to get a grip on this evolving area of threat and opportunity. PR teams have upskilled in this area, hiring young 'digital natives' or investing in new measurement tools.

I use the verb 'struggle' because this sphere of comms remains in its infancy, with few established answers and tools as yet. Meanwhile, the more established digital marketing agencies, media agencies and even advertising shops continue to contest this area of business.

It has not been a boom year, but it has been 12 fascinating, educational months for anyone working in the increasingly powerful and ever-vibrant UK comms community.

PRWeek has thoroughly enjoyed serving you in this respect. We wish you a very happy, peaceful Christmas and a successful 2011.

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