From the editor - Optimism cannot give way to self-denial

Eco-campaigner Al Gore brought us the phrase 'An Inconvenient Truth' to try to shake the world out of its denial of climate change.

Danny Rogers
Danny Rogers

Is a looming recession proving a similarly inconvenient truth for the PR industry?

We all know PR professionals tend towards the relentlessly optimistic. It is the way in-house comms staff drive their companies forward. It is the way PR consultants win new business. It is the way practitioners win over media scepticism.

And, in the main, they have continued to be optimistic about the economic downturn throughout the past year.

Occasionally one gets a maverick voice warning that the industry is in self-denial, that things are about to get really bad, and that nobody realises just how bad. In recent weeks more of these voices have chirped up.

Most of these are in private conversation. Although to be fair Lord Chadlington, boss of Huntsworth, went public all the way back in January; advising agency heads to cut early and cut deep. This week Edelman’s European CEO David Brain strikes a similar note.

The Bellwether Report this week warns of a sudden dramatic drop in client spend on below-the-line marketing, although unfortunately PR is lumped in with events and market research, so it is not specific.
And this is one of the problems in gauging the seriousness of the situation. The majority of PR spend is still not measured, so we don’t have accurate indicators on the level, or nature, of any cuts.

Unemployment figures released this week predict the number of people out of work will smash through the two million mark by the end of this year and, with inflation remaining high, it is difficult to see how this won’t affect PR spend.

And yet still I hear many voices of optimism. Internal comms is booming. The affordable luxury market is buoyant. The demand for digital consultancy remains feverish.

Maybe some in the industry are in denial.

But it is more likely that PR’s trademark optimism and entrepreneurship will drive it through these worrying times.

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