EDITORIAL Bay Area firms still face challenging market despite recent success of smaller agencies

The analysis of technology-account trends on the opposite page is bound to irritate some of the big firms, those who see the spate of small-agency success stories as mere aberrations.

The analysis of technology-account trends on the opposite page is bound to irritate some of the big firms, those who see the spate of small-agency success stories as mere aberrations.

But without overstating the trend, the subject highlights the fact that the Bay Area market is one that defies simple interpretation and predictions of success.

As the former bureau chief in the region, one who arrived on the scene in 2001 just moments after the dot-com party ended, I've watched with interest the continued roiling of the market. One thing that has amazed me is not how the big firms have struggled, but how the small ones have survived at all. On the face of it, one would think that the market could never sustain the six-person shop, the ten-person shop, the two-person shop. In some cases, the firms may have been reduced to one man and his dog. But they are still there.

So are the big agencies, even those that have consolidated in San Francisco and left Silicon Valley. Local presence matters, says Luca Penati, EVP of Edelman's Silicon Valley office, who says his staff spends significant time on-site with clients. The tech client is still a demanding one, one that has a limited budget and large expectations. But even after the glut of hiring that occurred during the boom, many of the large agencies have lost senior tech leadership and some are still scrambling to replace it.

Technology continues to dominate the landscape of the Bay Area, and is still, for the most part, the bellwether by which we largely judge an agency's success there. But some of the most interesting stories come out of firms like Fleishman-Hillard in San Francisco, which under the current regional leadership of Curt Kundred and GM Kelly McGinnis has made diversification its mantra, and lands many of its tech clients through its corporate, rather than product, expertise.

There is good business to be had in the Bay Area and a wealth of experienced people to populate its PR firms. But it is still a difficult market in which to map out a confident and consistent plan for long-term success.

'Gap' to focus on union of internal, external PR

The final installment of the Closing the Gap breakfast series takes place on Thursday, October 14. The series has shown us that communicators have made great strides in developing critical relationships internally.

And yet, gaps still exist. The next panel will look at the gap between internal and external communications - in terms of strategy, staffing, and alignment. It promises to be one of the most compelling discussions we've had, as it examines the ways in which PR needs to better align its strategic spokes from within.

So far, we have focused primarily on PR and other divisions in a corporation. Though much has improved, it is clear that communicators still wait for an approach from other disciplines far too often, rather than proactively building bridges.

Using the power of PR as a builder of consensus will bring PR closer to where it wants to be, regardless of what part of the organization it is targeting.

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The last "Closing the Gap" panel in the series focuses on the gap between internal and external communications. To reserve a place at the breakfast, send an e-mail to christie.casalino@prweek.com.

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