The snowdrops have been and gone, the daffodils are trumpeting the arrival of spring and stock markets are up. Finally, after four hard years, are we starting to see the thaw that our corner of the PR marketplace has been waiting for? Well, perhaps not quite yet.
There is no doubt that the corporate mood is better. For UK-focused businesses, there are clear signs of an improving economy, but it is heavily skewed towards London and the South East.
For the more international companies, there is some growth, primarily in the US. And all this in a world in which the real cost of debt is still amazingly cheap and margins have held up, so corporate cash flows are strong and funding long-term investment is attractive.
However, as the current events in Crimea show, there is still significant macro and political risk. If the sight of sabre rattling in the Crimea isn’t unsettling enough, I would commend Robert Peston’s documentary on China’s ballooning debt burden (available on the BBC iPlayer) as an alternative to a restful night’s sleep.
Meanwhile, in the UK there is increasing political uncertainty. The combination of European elections, the Scottish independence vote and, of course, the run up to the general election next May means that the campaigning has started. As a consequence, it seems as though business has become every politician’s football.
The somewhat muted economic conditions are belied by share prices. Stock markets have seen a general re-rating and, for those who missed it in 2000, are currently enjoying a re-run of the dotcom boom.
While new technologies are fundamentally changing our lives on a massive scale, the markets are torn as they combine an inability to accurately price these technology companies with a terrible fear of missing out.
However, notwithstanding the challenges and the risks, the economic environment does look more robust and stable than it has done for some time. That backdrop, in turn, provides companies with an opportunity to stand back from the day to day and to ensure that the corporate reputation is fit for purpose – for whatever the future may bring.
We are spending a lot of time with our clients thinking about how they can get their message to all of their stakeholders and how to use different media, from self-publishing formats to digital, to engage those groups.
The landscape is changing at breakneck speed. Senior financial journalists are changing seats, investors are taking a more active role in their investments and analysts are under more pressure than ever.
The need to engage and engage effectively in that environment is urgent and real.
Spring is in the air – now is the time to fix the roof.
Andrew Grant is founder of Tulchan Communications