EDITORIAL: Investment key to financial gain

The news that Edelman PR has hired Grandfield directors Stephen

Benzikie and Michael Henman signals the latest attempt by the global

agency to build a successful London financial practice.

Thoughts immediately go back to late 1998 when Kirsty Macmaster was

appointed to head Edelman's European financial PR business. At the time,

the talk was of creating a high quality London-based business. Less than

six months later Macmaster had left, claiming she had been given

insufficient backing to build a serious financial practice.

2001 and what's changed? Cynically, one could be tempted to say not very

much. However, both Richard Edelman and UK chairman Nigel Whittaker have

made it clear that this time they mean business.

Only time will tell, but the track record of Edelman and indeed that of

the global full-service agencies as a whole is far from impressive in

the highly lucrative financial PR sector.

It is widely known within the industry that Edelman is not the only

major player desperately seeking to boost financial capabilities in


After all, to be an effective global full service player, these agencies

need a credible financial London base. Not least because of the access

it affords at a senior level and the high fee margins.

The knock-on effect for senior level PROs within the financial sector

has been tremendous. Hot talent and even not so hot talent is at an

absolute premium and so too are the salaries.

The financial sector is beginning to make the technology area look

overstaffed, such is the lack of senior talent. But who is to blame for

this lack of specialist financial PR talent among the global


When it comes to paying inflated salaries for financial directors

agencies have no-one but themselves to blame by letting the situation

get so badly out of hand in the first place.

What happened to long-term strategy at these agencies when it came to

financial PR?

Whittaker blames radically differing cultures and is anxious that this

time these senior hires are fully integrated into the Edelman culture of

being a full-service agency. If successful, the agency has a lot to

gain. It can hardly bear to contemplate another failure.

To succeed those agencies looking to develop a real foothold in City and

financial PR must stop looking on it as some form of 'black art' that

few can master, and start putting in place measures that will enable

them to grow their own financial PROs rather than running to the

declining numbers of specialist agencies before it is too late.

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