Danny Rogers: We find PR enterprise in times of hardship

Our annual survey of comms directors, published this week, reminds us of the impact of the recession on in-house comms professionals. Over the past year, two-thirds of comms directors have seen significant cuts to their budgets, and more than half have suffered cuts in excess of ten per cent.

Danny Rogers
Danny Rogers

These are deep cuts to what were already efficient PR departments, and many teams (more than two in five) have been forced to shed staff to achieve these cost savings. All of this, of course, also contributes to the gradually increasing UK unemployment figures.

PR agencies have inevitably been hit as a result. Most worryingly, 70 per cent of comms directors report their agency budgets look vulnerable in the future.

The good news is that PR professionals on both sides of the fence are adapting well and the survey provides encouraging evidence of this.

We are already aware that PR agencies have been quick to make up budget shortfalls through international work and public sector projects (although news this week should be a warning to those too reliant on this rich seam).

In-house departments have adapted by cutting down on their paper-based content, which is surely overdue and a good thing for the environment. They have also focused their energies on cost-efficient social media programmes, the best of which are starting to pay dividends. Most encouragingly of all, more than half of comms directors are now spending even more time on CSR activities.

Because necessity is the mother of invention, recessions can be times of great innovation and enterprise. So those PR teams that are acting bravely, creatively, will be well placed to benefit from the economic recovery, when it comes.

On this theme, we are seeing evidence of green shoots in the UK PR industry and a renewed buzz within our community. The Bellwether Report next week should provide some more insight into current levels of marketing spend, but we all know there is still some way to go.

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