Danny Rogers: Brave investment can shore up recovery

Last week's PRWeek Awards event felt very buoyant, much more so than last year.

Danny Rogers: brave investment can shore up recovery
Danny Rogers: brave investment can shore up recovery

The buzz and the smiles were back in force. Many of the campaigns on show were outstanding.

Without doubt the comms business feels better than in recent years. We must be very careful not to talk ourselves into another downturn.

The PRCA's quarterly barometer, published a few weeks ago, suggested a delicately balanced industry.

The overall consensus among PR consultancies was that their individual fortunes were not worsening, and may be getting a little better - but there is much concern about the wider context.

Ask most PR agency bosses about how things are going and they will confide that 2011 has been a 'surprisingly good year so far' but they are not calling next year, or even next month, with any confidence.

This is because UK GDP growth remains sluggish, the stock markets have little confidence and there is so little certainty in the business world.

As a result many firms are protecting margins but failing to invest, which is bad news for job creation and risks pushing us all into a downward spiral.

Last week I wrote about how corporate affairs functions are growing in influence. And even on the brand promotion side of PR there is cause for cheer.

Recent quarterly figures from media groups WPP and Aegis showed surprisingly strong growth in the UK.

In WPP's case it was 6.7 per cent across its marcoms operations, while media specialist Aegis talked of an 11 per cent spike. Of course this is comparable to a tough Q3 2010, but there is some evidence - according to Sir Martin Sorrell and others - that as consumers are being squeezed, brands are choosing to invest in promotional spend rather than capital expenditure.

This has long been the mantra of inspired marketers and CEOs may finally be heeding this advice. The flurry of brand activity that will take place in 2012, when the Olympics come to London, could further boost this trend.

What we need to back up these encouraging signs is further investment by both brands and agencies. One focus for such investment is in digital and social media skills. It is an area in which Britain can truly lead the world.

At this juncture there is much cause for - moreover, need for - cheer. PR-led businesses that are lean, digitally focused and, above all, brave can lead us out of the lingering uncertainty.

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