As the year draws to a close, three thoughts spring to mind regarding the year ahead:
We were recently invited to take part in a beauty parade for a potential IPO. The banker running the process said: "Some PR firms are doing IPOs for nothing – we haven’t invited any of them to take part."
IPOs have long been seen as a loss-leader transaction and it is no surprise IPO fees are competitive. However, as the IPO market has sprung into life, it is like the hatching of the mayfly. A collective madness seems to overtake our industry and fee levels collapse. It’s not just the young start-up firms that are doing it – some big old trout, who should know better, are joining in.
We should be wary of playing this game. If we don’t value the work we do at the outset as companies come to market, why should these firms value our work properly in the years after?
I love the competitive dynamic and the flowering of new entrepreneurial firms that characterises this industry. But I wish we could co-operate to create a common standard for financial training, as the need for greater technical financial knowledge has never been more acute. We, like all of the leading firms, have developed our own training programme but have not yet found an external course that really works for us. Would anyone else see merit in designing a common course, blending financial technicalities and regulations with media relations?
This is a great time to be hiring as super-bright young people want to make a career in financial comms. A common training course, with approved exams, would help them at the start of their careers and improve the quality of the industry for us all.
"Taxation without representation is tyranny" – the slogan of the American Revolution. I respect copyright and want to see a financially sound newspaper industry but the charges the Newspaper Licensing Agency imposes upon our clients are looking increasingly like a gratuitous tax, with no ‘representation’.
The time is approaching when we need to look again at the basis of these charges and ensure they reflect the reality of the relationship that exists between the comms industry – both in-house and agency – and the financial media.
The financial press reports the results our clients publish; it uses the quotes our CEOs provide; journalists enjoy an extraordinarily responsive 24-hour, 7 days-a-week corporate answering service for which they do not pay. Imagine if a charge was made every time a journalist called or they used a quote from a client’s release? If we had charged £1 for every journalist call on the Co-op?
When the printed newspapers had a monopoly on news then there was no choice but to pay. Now, as digital outlets proliferate it is surely time to renegotiate – if only to avoid revolution.
Andrew Grant is founder of Tulchan Communications