OPINION: Laugh in the face of the doom-mongers

Downturn, slowdown, economic adjustment - the political and economic spinmeisters have their own lexicon to reassure us that what we are currently experiencing is anything but a recession.

Ian Monk
Ian Monk

Yet for all their careful messaging, that is increasingly what it looks, sounds and feels like. For many in our fast-evolving industry this is the first time they have experienced doing business in such conditions. 

Predictably, harbingers of doom abound around a profession in which a majority of practitioners have grown up in the rolling good times of a decade and a half of economic prosperity.

And yet in the face of the current economic climate, a confident and mature PR industry may be in better shape to survive and prosper than many believe.

A number of practitioners I have consulted speak of opportunities to increase fees from clients who are increasingly looking for a greater PR output to compensate for cutbacks they feel necessary in other parts of their marcoms spend. This seems to be particularly true among internet businesses confident of the returns PR can deliver.

Of course there is something slightly cannibalistic about slicing fee spend from our partners in related businesses. But then in any recession an element of dog eat dog, devil take the hindmost fills the commercial climate. What is refreshing is that PR is no longer the first cost to be axed in an economic chill. Rather its ability to deliver value becomes something of a premium commodity.

Practitioners should remain confident when pitching fee levels and ensure that they fully reflect the skill and professionalism of good PR.

Agency and in-house directors managing budgets should take the opportunity of an economic reality check to review suppliers' costs to ensure business is as lean and efficient as it could be. Those seeking to recruit fresh staff will find that the clamour for unearned bonuses is calmer, and that excessive headhunters' and agency costs will diminish in the changed climate.

The celebrity business is still booming and major league sport shows no signs of being impoverished by a collapse of sponsorship cash or export value.

Crisis management teams can expect a boost in business from all enterprises that need help to finesse the bad corporate news brought on by the economic change. In this, as in all business, careful checks should be made on the clients' ability to pay. Tight contracts and tighter payment schedules are the order of the day.

Whatever we choose to call this recession, best practice PR has good reasons to retain its swagger.

Ian Monk is founder of Ian Monk Associates and was formerly a senior newspaper executive at the Daily Mail and The Sun.

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