REVIEW OF THE YEAR: How has the PR world changed in 2001? PRWeek asks 35 leading public relations practitioners how the PR landscape changed in 2001 and how they think the industry will shape up during the next year

HAROLD BURSON - Founding chairman, Burson-Marsteller

'No-one who has lost a job, client or suffered a slashed budget would

believe there's even a bronze lining in the carbon cloud that recently

descended over the PR world. But some good may come out of the agony

after all. The fact is, PR was overheated for the better part of two

years. With the downturn, there is a return to basics - a renewed

emphasis on competent people able to deliver on their promise.'

CHARLIE WHELAN - Journalist and broadcaster

'It is said that events on 11 September changed the world. It was also

the day that a Government spin-doctor e-mailed colleagues to say that

this was "a good day" to bury bad news. People working in PR all know

when to punt a good story and when to get rid of a bad one, but until

that memo the public did not. Her actions have made the job of PROs that

much more difficult.'


'2001 has been a very good year in the world of entertainment PR. The

big success stories of the year have been Heat and Glamour. Within the

music press, the dance area has gone from strength-to-strength. The

national press continued their fascination with showbiz. The broadsheets

provided tremendous variety, while the artist-friendly tabloids

continued to be generally fair and, in the case of The Sun, very often

quite amusing.'

MAXINE TAYLOR - Director, corporate affairs, ELi Lilly UK

'The rise in global activism, such as the anti-WTO protests, has put the

spotlight on "the profit motive", and made firms in all industries very

aware of the growing need for public accountability. Increasingly, there

is a need to put the emotional case, in addition to the business case.

There are far more stakeholders than just shareholders to consider. We

learnt to bring the comms function much more to the fore.'

JONATHAN CLARE - Deputy chairman, Citigate Dewe Rogerson

'The current downturn began in August 2000 - the signs were there for

all to see, but no-one wanted to face reality. But, we can now see the

other side of the classic V-shaped recession. Financial and corporate PR

has proved amazingly resilient with big agencies seeing retained

business increase. While the big transaction projects have slowed, they

will come back in 2002.'

HARRIS DIAMOND - President and CEO, Weber Shandwick

'2001 has not been an easy year. But we've had economic downturns

before. As for the aftermath of 11 September, I see no evidence of a

seismic change in demand for our services. The information age is only

in its infancy; the need for clients to interpret, communicate and

influence behaviour in a complex globalised world is ever more pressing;

the opportunities for businesses across the spectrum bigger than


CHERI LOFLAND - Director of comms, Marks & Spencer

'2001 will be remembered as a year that consumers won over adversity.

Defying the predictions of economic doomsayers, consumers demonstrated

continued confidence and buying power. 2001 challenged us to use our

skills to counter those who would talk themselves into recession,

balanced against the recognition that some industries did not fare as

well. Our role remained, as always, to help our companies be sensitive

and responsive to the needs of our customers and other


NEIL HEDGES - Chairman, Fishburn Hedges

'2001 has been a good year for those involved in corporate reputation

management. The trigger for this comes from the boardroom, where the

subject of corporate reputation really has moved up the agenda. It's no

surprise that a recent study showed that the biggest concern of CEOs is

negative publicity and its impact on their firms. This is not something

which will be relegated if times get even tougher.'

ROBERT PHILLIPS - Founding partner, Jackie Cooper PR

'PR practitioners need to recognise 2001 as a year of genuine learning.

After 11 September, we learned to understand, again, the difference

between real news and spin. We learned to appreciate how the media react

and respond to such events. And we learned how to face new challenges

and a radically changing media landscape. But there is still a lot more

to learn in 2002.'

EDDIE BENSILUM - Head of corporate affairs, McDonald's UK

'We operate under much closer scrutiny - from our boards and

stakeholders. The number of new books such as The Silent Takeover and

firms such as Good Business have highlighted the continued importance of

ethical management over the past year.'

MYRA BENSON - Head of comms, Birmingham City Council

'Remember those days when you see a landscape shrouded in mist. But when

it clears, it's going to be a beautiful day? That's been the past year

in local government. Mist surrounding new ways of working - changing

political arrangements that promise faster decision-making, open

government, more public involvement and making local government more

interesting. The mist is clearing and real PR challenges should now


CHRIS TUCKER - Director, public relations, Barclays

'The number of recent enquiries such as the Competition Commission into

SME banking now runs into double figures. These enquiries, and the

acclaim to which they are often met in the media and from pressure

groups, makes me think that 2001 still saw the sector struggle to prove

its extensive contribution towards society and the economy. The

challenge is to continue to work to better address the agenda that

shapes perceptions of our industry.'

SARAH ROBINSON - MD, Consolidated Communications

'The year began with the end of the boom, it then went into

uncertainty thanks to threats of a recession but ends with optimism as

bigger and new budgets are surfacing. In a world of increasing

consolidation throughout the industry, 2001 also showed that there is

still room for an independent player, as our MBO showed.'

TIM JOHNS - Director, media relations, BT Group

'The bursting of the bubble saw harsh realities kick in. 11

September made everybody re-think what was important in their lives. The

DTI "bury bad news" debacle reminded many of how much we hate cynicism.

And the change in treatment of cannabis in south London could lead,

finally, to a proper debate on drugs. Perhaps the events of 2001 will

mean a greater concentration on the real values of communication, namely

honesty and integrity.'

NICK DE LUCA - Managing director, APCO UK

'The principle change in the PA world is the continuing shift in the

size and shape of firms. The disappearance of more independent firms and

the emergence of a few very large global ones, raised new questions

about whether shareholder's demands for greater returns were compatible

with client calls for value for money. Those sectors that weather

recessionary storms, will continue to provide opportunities for


ELIZABETH PEPLOW - Director of press/broadcasting, Lib Dems

'That the landscape of political PR has not changed over the course of

2001 is self evident, despite all the fall out from that e-mail. That it

should, is also painfully clear. But, there is a cautionary note for

politicians -turnout at the 2001 General Election was at an all time low

and MPs are competing for ever diminishing air-time. The quality of

messages must get sharper and more distinctive if politics is to have

any resonance with the electorate.'

CHARLES WATSON - Chief executive, Financial Dynamics

'The levels of M&A and IPO activity last year have been replaced by the

sight of multiple profits warnings and of many firms having to

restructure. The largest financial PR assignment in Europe was

Vodafone's takeover of Mannesmann, and the crisis management issue of

the restructuring and demise of Swissair Group. Both very different -

but presenting intensive comms challenges, giving PROs, yet again, a

vital role to play.'

MARK BORKOWSKI - Managing director, Borkowski PR

'The last 12 months proved that the public isn't thick -everyone's

getting sussed to the mechanics of the PR business. 2001 saw the death

of dull box-ticking PR and any agencies foolish enough to do it will

soon go out of business. There's lots of bad back-bedroom PR run by

agency defectors, who are undermining the industry. The last year has

seen a new generation of brand managers emerge that are hungry for

PR-led comms packages.'

PAUL BUDD - External relations director, Consignia

'For all the talk of the dark art of news management, in 2001 most

in-house professionals focused on providing clear, transparent and

persuasive information to media, customers and employees. The gulf

between the non-business media's perception of what most of us actually

do grew wider. Difficult news requires honest presentation - whether in

the politically charged public sector, or in a private sector adjusting

to FSA requirements and an ever more tactically aware public.'

JULIETTE PROUDLOVE - Director of corporate comms, LIFFE

'For the whole financial services sector, the year was cut in half by

the events of 11 September. Already having to deal with volatility in

the markets, financial markets worldwide faced scrutiny after it was

speculated that the terrorists had used the markets to make money out of

their actions. The last quarter of this year has been the most

challenging for an additional reason. LIFFE accepted an offer from

Euronext to buy our business - perhaps the most high-profile City deal

of the year.'

CATHARINE WARNE - MD, Red Door Communications

'This year saw the emergence of primary care trusts and other new

challenges brought into the equation such as National Service

Frameworks, NICE decisions and purchasing issues. For the first time,

DTC comms was "legalised" by the EU Commission. With every change comes

fresh challenges - the Healthcare Communications Association will

hopefully play an important part in answering that question.'

IAN WRIGHT - Communications director, Diageo

'The controversies surrounding Jo Moore, Sophie Wessex and financial PR

meant that PR became the story rather than the means of telling it.

However much we may say that this has nothing to do with the way each of

us works, the truth is that in the public mind the idea of PR is

becoming fixed as spinning, sleight of hand and "dis-ing" the

competitors. We have to create a single, respected voice for the


LUCY NEVILLE ROLFE - Group corporate affairs director, Tesco

'It has been a turbulent year - foot-and-mouth; an election where the PR

friendly saw off the PR sceptic; a Conservative leadership contest where

the PR candidate failed; and 11 September. All of this on top of tough

industry conditions for PR and advertising. The only guarantee of

success remains the good story.'

MATT PEACOCK - Chief communications officer, AOL UK

'In 2001, the media and the markets forgot that the the real Internet

revolution isn't taking place in the boadroom or on the dealing

floor. It's happening in consumers' homes - and it's only just begun.

Editors nursing hangovers are wary - but the last year has

seen their readers become more engaged than ever before.'

KAREN BERGIN - Head of corporate affairs, Microsoft UK

'It was a challenging year and, as a client, we had to become quite

prescriptive about what success looked like in direct relation to spend.

Tactics also seemed to occupy as much dialogue time as strategies. The

one area which didn't gain as much ground in terms of thought leadership

was 'reputation management.'


MARY JO JACOBI - Vice-president, group external affairs, Royal

Dutch/Shell Group

'For multi-nationals, the debate about globalisation will continue and,

in the light of the horrific events of 11 September, security will

remain a concern. At Shell we'll be preparing for the World Summit on

Sustainable Development next September which will focus attention on

issues like climate change. These issues must stay at the top of

everyone's agenda. And there will be comms challenges around the

uncertain economic climate and oil price, which affects everyone.'

ALEX SANDBERG - Chairman, College Hill Associates

'Next year will continue to be tough. But, in both the IPO and M&A

market, we are already seeing signs of preparation for activity that we

expect to accelerate into action next year. This will be "old economy"

led and we don't see a comeback in the tech sector any time soon. Fee

pressure and the demand for added value will accelerate. Retainers just

for being there should be history. More accounts will be up for review.

European cross-border and international activity has been patchy - I

don't see that changing.'


'There are real signs that local government and health are finally

getting their acts together - in some areas of PR, they are already

out-performing the private sector. For many councils it's going to be an

uphill struggle. But the cavalry - in the shape of the Local Government

Association and the Improvement & Development Agency - has arrived.

They're spearheading innovative communications projects in 2002 which

should see councils really raise their game.'


'I think the key issue for the public relations and public affairs

industry in 2002 is to clearly demonstrate the added value that it

brings to our clients' businesses. Clearly, increased specialisation

over the last ten years has highlighted this value but the world

recession has caused clients to question the value they are receiving.

It is only through demonstrating detailed expertise and knowledge that

we can highlight the importance of PR, 360 deg brand stewardship and

total branding.'

IAIN BURNS - Head of comms, British Airways

'Next year will be make or break for many air carriers. Our challenge is

three-fold. We need to reassure our customers that flying is the safest

mode of transport and that the industry will always put safety and

security as its number one priority. We need to make sure that all of

our employees are motivated to offer the best customer service against a

backdrop of cost-saving and pay cuts. Plus we need to deliver the best

business plan for our shareholders to retain and grow their confidence

in the sector.'

TIM BROWN - Group corporate affairs director, Vodafone Group

'Mobile telecoms is a young industry that has already altered the way in

which we work and socialise. Next year the industry will start to

introduce innovative new data services from our 3G networks, which will

facilitate even greater changes to the manner in which we communicate

with each other. The industry is creating fundamental shifts in the

patterns of human behaviour. Our challenge is to persuade customers of

the practical lifestyle benefits which mobile services can and will


ANDREW NEBEL - UK director of marketing and comms, Barnardo's

'The challenge will be that of persuading the public that the

ever-increasing professionalism of fundraising techniques is necessary

to sustain growth, and is not counter to the essence of the voluntary

sector. If the public want charitable fundraising to be transparent,

accountable and to perform the economic miracle of spending only 20p to

raise £1, then well intentioned amateurism will no longer fit the

bill. Conveying the complexity of this message will take some


RICHARD EDELMAN - President and CEO, Edelman PR Worldwide

'To differentiate PR from advertising in spending decisions. To inspire

those who may be stunned by staff reductions. To remind all of the

tremendous progress made by PR in the past five years alone. To reach

out beyond our traditional comfort zone and to engage the civil society

- which in some cases is challenging the validity of globalisation. We

need to provide a bridge for companies to these groups, who represent

the concerns, stated or unstated, of millions around the world.'

SIMON BUCKBY - Campaign director, Britain in Europe

'In 2002, the euro will become a real currency. The PR challenge is to

inform British people about how this momentous change affects us - in

the face of politically motivated hostility from the anti-European

press. Today, British people know little about the euro and care even

less. When the euro becomes a reality, people will want to know more,

and that is an opportunity to de-mystify the currency and demonstrate

that it could be a big benefit to Britain.'

FIONA TIGAR - Head of communications, AstraZeneca

'2002 will be another challenging year for PROs within the

pharmaceutical industry. Most of us will be facing more NICE appraisals,

as well as continuing to manage the changes to the way in which we bring

new products to market. We will also be watching with interest how the

European Commission progresses with its proposed changes to the EC

Review of Advertising Legislation. The concept of the industry being

allowed to communicate directly to consumers about its products is


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