EDITORIAL: Challenging time for healthcare PR

The story of the downturn in the communications sector is of a chill wind gradually reaching areas of the industry previously thought immune.

As corporate and financial markets contracted, followed by those in public affairs, issues management and consumer PR, healthcare, internal comms and the public sector were still appearing to be recession proof.

But with news this week of the Healthcare Communications Association's downbeat survey on the state of that market, yet more PROs are bracing themselves for an icy blast.

The HCA says the invasion of procurement advisers, a compelling skills shortage and wider commercial pressures have conspired to leave its own practitioners shivering in the gale.

The robustness of this market is, perhaps, in part being undermined by the fact that, as the research claims, clients are increasingly tardy in settling invoices and one in six pitches ends without any agency being hired.

Given the level of expertise, professionalism and specialist knowledge needed to excel in healthcare, it is difficult to advise those struggling in the mire on what to do to set themselves apart. Certainly, the tactic adopted elsewhere - cut costs to protect margins while hoping for a swift recovery - has if anything prolonged, rather than shortened, the period spent in the commercial doldrums.

The lesson from the wider market is to invest in talent and training, and focus on improving client service, so that when warmer weather does arrive, they will be in the best possible shape to benefit.

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