ST. LOUIS: A bullish John Graham, chairman and CEO of the nation's
largest PR firm, Fleishman-Hillard, has said that the US corporations
reluctant to commit to PR spending early this year are starting to turn
the spending spigots back on.
While bookings were slow two months ago, 'we're seeing more decisions
being made now than 60 days ago,' Graham told PRWeek. 'We're starting to
see the budgets break loose.'
At a Fleishman company conference in Dallas March 23, Graham also turned
industry predictions of doom and gloom on their heads by forecasting an
increase in Fleishman's revenues by 36% this year, only slightly down
compared to a 42% rise to dollars 300 million in 2000. Two thirds of
that increase was through organic growth. Fleishman expects to double
its revenues over the next three years, again with the majority coming
from organic growth.
However, he acknowledged that the first two months of this year were the
toughest and slowest since the early 1990s, especially during the Gulf
War, when corporations also froze plans for PR agency spending. 'It's a
difficult economic environment, but we'll come through it in good
shape,' he said.
While a number of agencies have suffered recently from the downturn in
the tech market - having to radically cut costs and lay off staff -
Graham said: 'We've suffered a little bit in technology, but not
appreciably.' Fleishman's West Coast operations did the most work with
dot-com clients and 'a number of dot-coms in certain offices don't exist
anymore,' he said. But the firm has managed to avoid major layoffs in
its tech practice by garnering more tech business from old-line
companies, such as long-time client Emerson Electric, which are moving
into the online economy. 'A lot of old economy clients are now in the
new economy and we've helped them make that bridge,' he said. Tech fees
account for about 25% of Fleishman revenues.
The firm will look for acquisitions in Asia this year and hunt in the US
for firms with healthcare capabilities, he said.
Fleishman holds an agency conference every three years. This year's
meeting saw 2,200 staffers from 76 offices worldwide journey to Dallas
for three days of speeches and 45 workshops.