EDITORIAL: Investment key to financial gain

The news that Edelman PR has hired Grandfield directors Stephen Benzikie and Michael Henman signals the latest attempt by the global agency to build a successful London financial practice.

The news that Edelman PR has hired Grandfield directors Stephen Benzikie and Michael Henman signals the latest attempt by the global agency to build a successful London financial practice.

Thoughts immediately go back to late 1998 when Kirsty Macmaster was appointed to head Edelman's European financial PR business. At the time, the talk was of creating a high quality London-based business. Less than six months later Macmaster had left, claiming she had been given insufficient backing to build a serious financial practice.

2001 and what's changed? Cynically, one could be tempted to say not very much. However, both Richard Edelman and UK chairman Nigel Whittaker have made it clear that this time they mean business.

Only time will tell, but the track record of Edelman and indeed that of the global full-service agencies as a whole is far from impressive in the highly lucrative financial PR sector.

It is widely known within the industry that Edelman is not the only major player desperately seeking to boost financial capabilities in London.

After all, to be an effective global full service player, these agencies need a credible financial London base. Not least because of the access it affords at a senior level and the high fee margins.

The knock-on effect for senior level PROs within the financial sector has been tremendous. Hot talent and even not so hot talent is at an absolute premium and so too are the salaries.

The financial sector is beginning to make the technology area look overstaffed, such is the lack of senior talent. But who is to blame for this lack of specialist financial PR talent among the global players?

When it comes to paying inflated salaries for financial directors agencies have no-one but themselves to blame by letting the situation get so badly out of hand in the first place.

What happened to long-term strategy at these agencies when it came to financial PR?

Whittaker blames radically differing cultures and is anxious that this time these senior hires are fully integrated into the Edelman culture of being a full-service agency. If successful, the agency has a lot to gain. It can hardly bear to contemplate another failure.

To succeed those agencies looking to develop a real foothold in City and financial PR must stop looking on it as some form of 'black art' that few can master, and start putting in place measures that will enable them to grow their own financial PROs rather than running to the declining numbers of specialist agencies before it is too late.



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