And that's the way it was in 2016

Twelve months have flown by and a tumultuous year has thrown up numerous lessons and challenges for PR pros.

Fox News' Megyn Kelly tore into DNC chair Donna Brazile over prior access to debate questions
Fox News' Megyn Kelly tore into DNC chair Donna Brazile over prior access to debate questions

It’s difficult to comprehend that another year has almost flown by.

It hardly seems a bat of an eyelid since last December when we were contemplating General Motors’ comprehensive review of its PR agency offerings.

Tony Cervone’s team raised a few eyebrows when it chose a start-up agency as its first appointment, picking Kovert Creative for the Cadillac account back in April. It went on to choose Weber Shandwick for Chevrolet and M Booth for the Buick and GMC accounts. All three appointment stories were broken exclusively on PRWeek. There is one more decision left to come out of Dearborn to close out the year.

The other big review process of the year, over at Procter & Gamble in Cincinnati, ended in November with Hill+Knowlton Strategies picking up the CPG giant’s first global corporate communications AOR gig – a fine win for the WPP firm.

Both reviews underlined the fact that change is the new normal and that big clients are not afraid to take risks and try something new. Large networks can’t assume their big accounts are going to be around forever. The process is exhaustive and exhausting.

But PR firms locked out of the PR contracts can still console themselves by competing for assignments in the marketing, digital, public affairs, or social media parts of the business, as FleishmanHillard has successfully done at GM.

One thing is for sure, clients want extra value for their marketing and communications bucks, and they’re not going to be patient in making sure they get that. Procurement is playing a larger and larger role in the PR agency appointment process.

Overall PR agency revenues are a bellwether for the wider industry, and my hope is that when it comes to Agency Business Report time in May next year, PRWeek will be reporting double-digit growth figures across the board - but somehow I doubt that is going to happen.

Even Edelman declined to release its July to June fiscal-year financials this year, for the first time in five years, which logically suggests the numbers weren’t as impressive as previously. When the biggest firm in the world is shy about unveiling details of its performance, it’s only natural to assume it hasn’t got as strong a narrative as previous years.

PRWeek’s U.S. and Global Agency of the Year of the Year, Weber Shandwick, posted double-digit organic growth on top of double-digit gains last year, an impressive tally that will also be difficult to replicate moving forward. But I’d be surprised if many other firms shine as brightly as Weber in the annual figures, which we start collecting in the first week of January.

On the media beat, our columnist Shannon Bowen makes a really good point in her piece published today, and one that hasn’t received much attention elsewhere. The hacks into the Clinton campaign were obviously highly politicized, but there was very little scrutiny of the astonishing and, frankly, unethical revelations about the behavior of The New York Times in granting access to advance copies of articles and editorial veto to the Democrats.

DNC chair Donna Brazile also raised eyebrows when she admitted the campaign had been given advance access to debate questions.

Media has taken a pounding in the past few weeks in the wake of the election and Donald Trump’s Twitter attacks, but it’s difficult to maintain the moral high ground when practices such as this are unveiled. Media outlets have to remember the important line in the sand between reporting and advocating, especially in its news pages.

Next week I will round up the year in more detail and look forward to 2017 in my Editor’s Choice feature. In the meantime, I hope you finish this busy year in style and get the chance to kick back and relax a little before resuming full speed in January.

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