EDITORIAL: Mixed messages from the industry

There is nothing like a downturn for getting the PR industry spinning and the rash of recent results has seen news managers go into overdrive.

Queries from PRWeek on the health of the business draw conflicting responses.

At one end of the spectrum, generally occupied by independents, we have witnessed protestations of such insane optimism that they border on denial.

At the other, there is the pessimism of those public companies whose tone is curtailed by Stock Exchange rules. The most dire prognosis so far has come from WPP chief executive Sir Martin Sorrell, underlined by Cordiant's results.

This week, however, the nationals report growing optimism at Incepta, based on a potential rise in the number of companies set to float. While Detica's IPO was less promising than anticipated, the forthcoming float of firms such as HMV and Focus Wickes indicate returning confidence.

But as Incepta CEO Richard Nichols' comments to PRWeek - in which he casts doubt on a recovery in 2002 - indicate, it takes more than a couple of swallows to make a spring. The only real hope to draw from the recent spate of unpromising forecasts is that marketing groups are hedging their bets in a bid to exceed analyst expectations.

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