It's difficult to assess where the turbulent global economy is going to take us next year, with shockwaves in Europe spreading around the rest of the world and causing uncertainty, and domestic travails such as unemployment and national debt continuing to plague the US.
Thus far in 2011 the PR sector in the US has remained pretty insulated from the macroeconomic situation, with digital and social media continuing to drive net growth in client spends.
But there must come a time when reality prevails and I suspect in-house communicators will be adopting more of a wait and see policy in Q1 2012 while they assess which way the economy is going to turn. Budgets are not being slashed yet, but there may be a little more project work on offer and a pull back on retainers as we enter the New Year.
That is to be expected. However, there is still a lot of opportunity out there for smart agencies that can offer genuinely effective social media strategy that really moves the needle. There is a tendency to think that social media has become a cliché and that its impact has been hyped out of all proportion. But that is certainly not the way clients are thinking.
On the contrary, they are actually asking the big agencies to step up to the plate and ramp up their social media offerings even further. There is a feeling amongst some senior in-house communicators that the big agencies aren't quite as advanced as they like to think they are when it comes to social media.
Some of them are turning to sophisticated specialist research outfits to inform or even oversee their social media, having grown impatient with the slow progress of their PR AORs to catch up.
It's a salutary warning to PR agencies that underlines the fact that, even though they have a head start on social media compared to other firms, there is no room for complacency.
There are still tremendous opportunities out there for the PR agency sector – and the clients they serve – but they must get their social media analytics and measurement tools up to scratch if they are to continue to take their rightful role at the apex of social media and modern communications.