NEWS ANALYSIS: Gazing into the industry crystal ball

From taking action to combat climate change to spotting the next agency to be snapped up and preparing for a shake-up in the recruitment industry - PRWeek readers predict what 2008 has in store for them.

NEWS ANALYSIS: Gazing into the industry crystal ball
NEWS ANALYSIS: Gazing into the industry crystal ball

 

CSR

SOLITAIRE TOWNSEND, CEO, Futerra

'This year climate change will be reported very differently. It will change from being the new kid on the block to an issue reported in hard facts and specifics. PROs should be finding out how well their clients are doing on the issue. There will be more of a focus on solutions and actions rather than problems. The polar bear will become political.'

LUCIAN HUDSON, director of communications, Foreign & Commonwealth Office

'I have a dream. This will be a year where substance counts - more of an accent on changes to produce a difference rather than image building. Effective PR will be about showing grit - which means passion and determination to do the right thing. The true impact of globalisation means we will see not just the threat of climate change, but we will get real about what we all need to do to take action, and get smart about the business opportunity.'

ANDREW GRIFFIN, managing director, Regester Larkin

'As the economic outlook appears less buoyant, some sense will return to companies. Those who care about their reputations will learn when to stand up for themselves, their employees and their customers and realise that many of their CSR programmes - based on the agendas of others - are leading to a decline rather than an improvement in trust.'

IAN OLIVER, external communications manager, Wolseley UK

'2008 will see an epic battle at the Beijing Olympics. Not on the track or in the pool, but a PR battle for hearts and minds, fought out in the world's media between the Goliath of China and the David of NGOs, such as Amnesty.'

THE AGENCY WORLD

BRENDON CRAIGIE, managing director, Hotwire UK

'Agencies' growth in 2008 will be driven by their ability to tap into broader marketing budgets. All trends point to an increase in marketing spend on social media communication strategies.'

GREG JONES, managing partner, Shine Communications

'Convergence and corporate takeovers will make it more common to manage a portfolio of clients that may conflict or compete in some areas of their business. So, in 2008, clients will accept a degree of conflict in order to work with the best agencies.'

GLENN MANOFF, communications director, O2

'More PR, digital and advertising agencies will come together formally under one master brand. I'd expect a PR agency to buy an ad agency and a digital agency for the first time. Chime has done some astute deals so you might see it in the market to buy a digital or events agency.'

JACKIE ELLIOT, founder, Cathcart Consulting

'A merging of Cubitt Consulting and College Hill would be a sensible step for two of our most eccentric independents. If I were shopping for agencies, I would try to persuade Angie (Moxham, CEO) at Three Monkeys to sell up.'

GUS SELLITTO, director, The Byfield Consultancy

'The legal sector will become a whole lot more interesting to the PR world in 2008, thanks to the Legal Services Act, which received Royal Assent in October. 'Dubbed Tesco Law because it will eventually allow supermarkets to sell legal services, the Act will allow law firms to create alternative business structures (for example, lawyers and public affairs practitioners working together on an equal footing as company directors), invite outside investment and float on the stock market.

'As the market becomes more crowded and diverse, the PR challenges will become greater. There will be an increased need for good legal PR specialists and additional sector-specific PR skills to deal with market opportunities and threats as they develop - such as consumer, IR and public affairs.'

RECRUITMENT

ROSE BENTLEY, director, Kinross + Render

'PR employers will be seeking to encourage more employees over 60 to apply for jobs to cater for the expanding third age market. By 2033 there will be more people over 65 than under 16.'

STUART CAMPBELL, MD, Custard PR

'The PR sector recruitment industry will see a huge shake up in 2008. I wouldn't be surprised if one or two established recruiters close and several of the smaller recruiters are eaten up by bigger fish. PR recruitment will naturally become more cut-throat as recruiters struggle to hit their targets.'

JONATHAN HUGHES, joint MD, Golin Harris

'The biggest issue will be losing great people; we'll need to offer more than just money to get and keep the best creative talent. The risk is not just losing great people to competitors but having them leave PR altogether. So better flexible working options, personal career paths, a great office culture, development bursaries and meaningful CSR programmes will be key.'

BELT TIGHTENING?

LIS LEWIS-JONES, president of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations

'In 2008, we're likely to see market conditions tighten, leading to consultancies placing greater focus on evaluation and demonstrating return on investment. As greater importance is placed on quality, experienced practitioners and evaluation, so too will ethics and accountability be pushed higher up the PR agenda. We have already seen an increase in flexible working and I feel that this will only increase as companies, both in-house and consultancy, seek to retain their senior, experienced staff.

'Also this year, on 23 and 24 June, the World Public Relations Conference will be held in London for the first time. This event will bring an increased focus on international issues; and its theme, The Public Benefit of Public Relations, will allow the industry to identify, understand and quantify its contribution to business and society.'

ALEX AIKEN, head of communications, Westminster City Council

'For the public sector, 2008 will mark an absolute and timely focus on value for money. Tough central and local government financial settlements mean that in-house teams will demand more from agencies. Demonstrating tangible benefit, not just column inches, will be paramount.'

STEPHEN WADDINGTON, MD, Rainier PR

'Some doomsayers predict a recession for 2008. But I can't see it happening in the business-to-business sector. Clients and agencies still bear the scars of the last recession, triggered by the dotcom and telco bubble. Clients have continued managing budgets on a quarterly basis and maintaining pressure on margins.'

ALAN TWIGG, director, Seventy Seven PR

'Too many agencies will start discounting their work as the economy turns a wee bit cold - doing us all an injustice!'

CORPORATE COMMUNICATIONS

NICK HINDLE, vice president, communications, McDonald's UK

'In 2008 there will be a greater realisation of the critical role that all employees can play in managing a company's reputation. So more of us, in-house and in agencies, will get more serious about the importance of strategic internal communications.'

DIGITAL

COLIN BYRNE, CEO, Weber Shandwick

'Clients will stop being fascinated by social media and start investing in it - but expect real, measurable results.'

JACKIE COOPER, creative director and vice-chair, Edelman UK

'2008 will see content and the digital drive become ever more important to the PR agency offering. Pure media relations will become a proportionately smaller part of our remit as we embrace the opportunities that technology, new media and audience co-creation offer. Maybe PR agencies will become more of a threat to advertising agencies than ever before in this content-driven age.'

JAMES SMITH, senior account manager, Fleishman-Hillard

'The burgeoning US digital-healthcare space will cross the Atlantic, as European pharma looks to learn from its US counterparts on how best to interact online. Although most high-profile examples of pharmaceutical companies interacting online have come from the US, such as Johnson & Johnson's blog site JNJ BTW, the UK and European arms of the industry are likely to explore ways of engaging the growing number of people entering the online healthcare debate, while working within the restrictions imposed by the ABPI Code of Practice.'

PUBLIC AFFAIRS

GRAHAM MCMILLAN, chief executive, Open Road

'The Brown government will remain unpopular in 2008 and will be unable to recover lost ground. The economy will slow down to a growth rate of 1.6-2 per cent, and the Budget in 2008 will be very tight, involving tax increases and a tight lid on public spending. Public affairs teams will therefore need to continue to develop their links with the opposition in addition to cementing their ties with the Brown administration. Both public and private sector communication budgets will be tight and value for money will be the watchword for all PR and PA clients.'

PETER BINGLE, chair, Bell Pottinger Public Affairs

'2008 is the year when the public affairs industry will finally have to face reality. The APPC (Association of Professional Political Consultants) will hopefully be wound up and the industry will then appoint a professional communicator to speak on its behalf.'

GUY BLACK, corporate affairs director, Telegraph Media Group

'Crystal balls and PR are a notoriously dangerous combination. But I believe the political situation at home will be marked by extreme flux and swings in opinion, and we'll all be gripped by the American Presidential election - the outcome of which only the rash would predict.'

AND FINALLY...

ALAN TWIGG, director, Seventy Seven PR

'GMTV will go bust only to be reprieved by Gordon Brown. Presenter Fiona Philips will become Labour Party Chairman, but then defect to the Tories because their corporate colour is "nicer".'

Peter Crumpler, director of communications, Archbishops' Council, Church of England

'Richard Dawkins will call in Regester Larkin to deal with a crisis of faith when he realises what a major part religion plays in the life of Britain. Andrew Marr will give Archbishop John Sentamu back his clerical collar, in pieces, as crowds rejoice in Harare. Angus Maitland will be called in to advise the resurgent Zimbabwe corporate sector.'

JOHN STONBOROUGH, founder, John Stonborough & Co

'I guarantee that despite spending over half a million quid of licence payers' money to send 16,500 employees on a Truth Recognition course, the BBC will be engulfed in another fact fiddling scandal in 2008.'

ROSE BENTLEY, director, Kinross + Render

'Lynne Franks and Janice Dickinson will team up and dominate the speaker circuit (probably planned well before I'm a Celebrity....).' FRANCIS INGHAM, PRCA director-general, advises agencies how to maximise growth at www.prweek.com/uk.

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