Danny Rogers: Reasons for cheer in a year of two halves

As 2011 draws to a close, we can reflect on a year of seismic change for professional communicators and the wider media.

Danny Rogers: Reasons for cheer in a year of two halves
Danny Rogers: Reasons for cheer in a year of two halves

This 12-month period will be remembered best for the 'hackgate' scandal, which closed the country's best-selling newspaper, rocked the previously omnipotent Murdoch clan and saw a crisis in trust for the popular media.

Economically the year started well, but upheaval in the eurozone snuffed out the returning confidence. More recently these European matters have also put David Cameron's coalition Government under unprecedented pressure.

As a service industry the PR business has seen its fortunes fluctuate in line with this politico-economic landscape. Things looked brighter in the spring, with many pundits predicting the near-double-digit growth in comms spend that was achieved in 2010. Unfortunately this now looks unlikely.

Hackgate, eurozone unrest and domestic riots in the summer meant it became a year of two halves, with a squeeze in confidence and budgets apparent by September. By November the two biggest owners of PR consultancies, Chime and Huntsworth, were effectively issuing profit warnings.

The budgetary visibility for private sector comms directors is now akin to a freezing fog; these teams are fighting to hold on to funds and campaigns amid business uncertainty. For public sector comms heads, 2011 was the year budgetary Armageddon arrived.

But before one dons entirely Scrooge-like headgear, there are causes for optimism. Globally, business leaders like WPP's Martin Sorrell remain bullish about what he calls 'editorial publicity' and many networks continue to thrive on the international stage. The UK still embodies the gold standard in creative comms campaigns, the calibre of which is envied around the world. Indeed, October's PRWeek Awards was an upbeat festival of much that is great about the British PR business.

Equally this country has become an incubator for a new breed of fast-growth digital comms businesses. Their innovation and energy will find global markets in the new media and marketing landscape of 2012 and beyond.

It is a truism that PR does well in recessions because there is a high demand for professional reputation management skills in difficult times. Yes, it has been a testing year. But is this not the new normal in which we thrive?

PRWeek has thoroughly enjoyed providing you with the latest news, analysis and reports - in print, online, and in person - and continuing to learn from your always intelligent opinions. We wish you a very happy Christmas and a successful 2012.

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