Danny Rogers: Emerging markets offer global incentives

A report this week from ICCO (the International Communications Consultancy Organisation) painted an encouraging picture for the global PR sector.

Eighty-three per cent of respondents, who were consultancy bosses from 19 countries across the globe, expected 2011 budgets to be up on last year. And even the remaining 17 per cent expected stable revenues.

Such optimism is backed by marcoms group Publicis' full-year figures, released last week, reporting double-digit growth during 2010.

The owner of PR firms MSL and (until very recently) Freud Communications said the 'twin pillars' of growth for 2011 would be the digital sector, and certain high-growth countries.

The ICCO survey concurred. Ninety per cent of global agency heads pointed to digital comms as the key expansion area this year.

Across the world brands are investing heavily in a bid to influence online conversations that impact on their reputations, and ultimately their success. But this is where PR firms run into fierce competition from other marketing disciplines.

The brightest area of growth for PR consultancies is, therefore, the area of online corporate reputation management.

Those that can offer truly global solutions to big corporates in this respect will be the ultimate winners in 2011.

And, of course, such global growth is uneven. While these trends certainly apply in the mature markets of the UK, US and Western Europe, there is faster growth elsewhere. PR spend in the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China) grew between 20 and 40 per cent during 2010, according to Edelman.

Meanwhile, agency bosses highlight explosive growth in parts of the EMEA region. Bulgaria, Germany, Norway and Turkey are all showing stronger potential than the UK, France and Italy. But the real excitement is coming from the MEA element, particularly Nigeria and Qatar, and even Egypt, where we have just seen a social media-influenced revolution.

Encouragingly, much of the sectoral growth in these expanding markets comes from sectors encapsulating a responsible, long-term view. The ICCO survey finds nearly 90 per cent of respondents identified the energy and environment sectors as key areas.

All these indicators show that ambitious PR professionals must focus on providing strategic reputation management, with a heavy focus on digital. The challenge will be offering such consultancy expertise on a consistently global scale.

Finally, the ICCO report found PRWeek UK to be the world's most influential PR trade publication.

Some things never change.

danny.rogers@haymarket.com

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