Financial PR has adapted to survive

The latest trading update from the London Stock Exchange illustrates yet again how lean the pickings in financial markets are and how tough therefore the environment is for financial PR firms.

Anthony Hilton: "The purpose of financial PR companies was always to communicate results to the media and the markets.'
Anthony Hilton: "The purpose of financial PR companies was always to communicate results to the media and the markets.'

The number of companies listed on the main market and AIM continues to decline; the money raised continues to decline; trading volumes continue to decline. And there is little merger activity.

Coverage in the media reflects this. There was a time when quality papers set out to cover the majority of company results while the tabloids selected the juiciest as share tips. Today the stories in the business pages are devoted instead to strategic and public policy issues.

There is now very little space devoted to reporting the results of companies unless they are retail household names, a giant with name recognition or one where the interest is not in the figures but in a tangential issue.

The purpose of financial PR companies was always to communicate results to the media and the markets so company shares were fully valued. Now that business is a shadow of its former self, what do they do instead?

Well, one clue came in the press release announcing the merger of two relatively young firms - StockWell, founded in 2010, and R Holloway Associates, founded in 2002. The new firm will have 'proven strength in reputation management, boardroom strategic comms counsel; financial and transaction comms, analogue, digital and social media relations; corporate comms, crisis management and litigation support'.

Long may multitasking flourish?

But a more significant initiative comes from Lanson's, a firm that has always looked as much towards Westminster as the Square Mile. Its long suit is public policy. But now it is putting itself centre stage as a thought leader by organising financing and staging a conference on the future of financial services. It has attracted as headline speakers the two most important financial regulators, Martin Wheatley and Andrew Bailey.

Some of this is about marketing, but it also signifies a willingness to become a player as well as an adviser, and is an interesting way of adapting to these tough times.

Anthony Hilton is City commentator on London's Evening Standard

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