What will happen to CSR spending?

The boom-turned-bust will lead to both risks and opportunities for public sector PR in the coming weeks and months.

To take just one example- the rise, and impending demise, of CSR PR. Ten years ago the world of private sector PR was starting to embrace CSR with gusto. Firms were persuaded to put millions of pounds towards socially acceptable projects in order to improve the brand of the company. This ticked the box of showing that they really did care about society and reduced government's desire to regulate more while not having to plough too much shareholder dividend into any scheme.

However, the new buzz words at the tail end of the noughties may well end the CSR lip service. 'Credit crunch', 'Lehman Brothers', 'sub prime', 'AIG', 'Freddie Mac' and 'Fannie Mae' are the new words of the private sector world as shareholders and directors slowly watch their profits crumble.

Based on historical downturns, the first divisions of any company to see their budget trimmed are those that do not improve the bottom line quickly. This means that CSR budgets could be hacked to next to nothing.

For the public sector this provides both risks and opportunities. On the one hand the risk will be that the cut in CSR cash will lead to a failure to meet the economic and social responsibilities to which government has committed and therefore the reputation of the public sector will take a hammering. Alternatively it could mean that where the private sector CSR judders to a halt, the reputation of the public sector could rise like a phoenix from the flames. There is the chance for councils to demonstrate to people that, regardless of boom or bust, and regardless of profit or loss, the public sector does improve lives.

When it comes to caring for the planet and for people, private sector PR has been light years ahead of the public sector for a long time. Now a window of opportunity has opened where those who spend their entire lives and budgets helping people can seize the initiative, grab positive headlines and demonstrate who really does make a positive difference to people's lives and saves the taxpayer money.

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