The latest PRCA trends barometer, published this week, indicates that optimism among British PR agencies is finally being hit. And is it any wonder?
When the Chancellor of the Exchequer lets slip that we face the worst economic period in 60 years – and the (more objective) Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development tells us that Britain is the only G7 nation facing recession in the next six months – it is difficult to remain upbeat.
The PRCA data shows that the majority of respondents now feel less optimistic than in the previous quarter, for the first time since the barometer began three years ago.
Indeed there is a fair chance that, thanks to the relentless economic news, PR agency confidence is at its lowest ebb for five years. But we should put this into proper context.
First, the PRCA sample is relatively small, and is therefore a snapshot of opinion rather than a robust report.
Second, we should remember that first-half 2008 trading figures for three of the biggest owners of PR agencies – WPP, Chime and Huntsworth – were incredibly strong, showing both revenue and profit growth across the board.
Sir Martin Sorrell, Lord Bell and Lord Chadlington have all recently stated that PR growth remains healthy, unlike advertising income.
Privately, however, these bosses are less bullish about the UK market. There seems to have been a noticeable change in sentiment since June, with more tightening of budgets across the board.
Again such pessimism should be put into the context of five years of double-digit growth for the industry.
It has been an incredible achievement that has barely been recognised by the wider world, outside these pages.
The PR business is bigger and stronger than ever before, with a major influx of senior journalist and analyst talent over the past year.
At the other end of the spectrum, as we reported recently, agencies are pulling in record numbers of talented graduates.
So, hopefully, there is cause for longer-term cheer amid the ubiquitous gloom.