EDITORIAL: PR's resilience of 2002 has it well-prepared for unknown challenges of the coming year

PR practitioners have every reason to feel optimistic about 2003. Do I detect a collective snort of disbelief? Nonetheless, it's true.

PR practitioners have every reason to feel optimistic about 2003. Do I detect a collective snort of disbelief? Nonetheless, it's true.

Think back to last January 1, and the palpable sense of relief as the ball dropped in Times Square. Irrationally exuberant forecasts of budget increases and new business abounded on the agency side. Corporate PR people were not yet fully aware of the new issues and scrutiny they and their CEOs would be facing in the coming months. Consumers seemed inclined to focus on home and family in the aftermath of September 11, but at least they were still consuming. When the turnaround failed to materialize, the industry psyche was even more injured by having indulged too much in hope, sort of like that New Year's Day hangover. However, there is nothing irrational about the view PR is taking towards 2003. After shaking off the disillusionment, PR departments and agencies got to work this past year. The impact of that effort is becoming more evident. We cannot fail to recognize the increasing relevance of PR in the corporate world, when a company like Enron puts its top PR person on the management board for the first time. Agencies are taking risks again, introducing new practice areas, doing timely, original research, and making strategic hires that continue to challenge the preconceptions of the capabilities of PR. The problems that will face us in 2003 are not yet known. But I have no doubt that this industry is prepared to face them. I could not - would not - have said that one year ago.

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