OPINION: The Big Question - Can you help your region's PR sector cope with economic downturn?

As the global economic situation worsens, there is increasing

anecdotal evidence of budget tightening in PR. Trade associations are

taking different steps to lend members a helping hand.



CATHY LUGBAUER



Council of Public Relations Firms - US



'Coming off 34 per cent growth in 2000, the US industry has throttled

back. Entering the year expecting 22 per cent growth, projections

dropped to 11 per cent by the end of the first quarter, with the tech PR

sector estimating a 20 per cent decline. The Council of PR Firms has

been guiding the industry's response. PR firms in the US have

strengthened bonds with clients, intensified new business efforts, and

cut staff costs. While 43 per cent of Council members have reduced staff

and 32 per cent have imposed a hiring freeze, only 22 per cent of firms

have reduced training investments. The industry is taking prudent

steps.'



CHRIS MCDOWALL



PRCA



'You don't need the brain of a football manager to work out that

economies are cyclical. The PRCA spent years during the last boom

putting in place a set of tests for members. The consultancy management

standard (CMS) assures clients of commercial competence. One hundred per

cent of members completed their audit by 1 January. There were some

casualties. Today all members have systems to enable maximum value from

strategic and financial planning, service delivery, staff training and

development and evaluation.



So the PRCA strategy is in place, giving our members the tools to

operate efficiently in the bad times as well as the good.'



JIM R MACNAMARA



Public Relations Institute of Australia



'The industry in Australia has not seen a significant downturn yet. Some

lay-offs have occurred in Asia, particularly in the IT sector. However,

the Australian economy is experiencing steady growth. The Public

Relations Institue of Australia (PRIA) conducts an active training

programme, including business training designed to assist PR

consultancies plan and manage their businesses. Practitioners are

provided with courses to expand their skills. Beyond this, the PRIA

thinks planning is an individual company matter. Also, an important

responsibility of PR industry bodies is educating the market on the

value of PR and this ultimately contributes to the increasing the use of

PR and the growth of the industry.'



HANNEMIE STITZ



German PR Agencies Association



'We decided to concentrate on qualitative aspects of professional

development, and tried to find the balance between old and new economy

clientele. No matter from which perspective we look at it - as a trade

association, as a company or as individual professionals: making the

right investments in networking, teaming up and growing together with

reliable partners has become vital to survive in our competitive

business environment during the downturn.



Despite the world economic slowdown, the board of the German PR agency

association has kept its optimism, so far. The shift from advertising

towards PR in many of our clients' communications budgets seems to

secure and guarantee the further, positive development of the PR sector

in Germany.'



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