PR enters 2012 with equal parts caution and optimism

If 2009 was a year of recession and 2010 was one of retrenchment, it's fair to say 2011 was a great year for PR and communications.

If 2009 was a year of recession and 2010 was one of retrenchment, it's fair to say 2011 was a great year for PR and communications. The industry powered through wider domestic and global economic woes, prospering in an environment where digital and social media continued to stimulate growth and the value of communications skills was appreciated more and more in terms of building and protecting corporate reputation.

The performances of the major marketing services holding companies such as WPP, IPG, Publicis, and Omnicom acted as a bellwether for the industry and reflected this healthy environment, with Q3 figures for PR and associated divisions proving particularly robust.

It is likely that 2012 will be a more difficult year, though there is no need to talk ourselves into a recession by being doom-and-gloom merchants about it - and the dreaded double-dip is extremely unlikely to happen.

Unemployment is starting to come down; there finally seems to be a bottoming out of the housing crisis; and GDP growth is on an upward curve, albeit steady rather than spectacular, fueled by consumers who just refuse to bow down and stop spending. People are working harder than ever and they insist on retaining their home comforts and small luxuries as a reward for their labors.

Then there is the fact that 2012 is an election year and an Olympic year, both factors that drive marketing spend and feed through to PR and communications budgets.

However, it is inevitable that there will be more caution in the market at the start of 2012.

Agency bosses are staying upbeat and reporting that their clients are not yet pulling back on spending. Agencies are notorious optimists, however, and when you speak to in-house PR pros directly they are more circumspect.

A watching brief is the order of the day until the fabric of the New Year takes shape, but there is enough optimism around at both macroeconomic and micro-industry levels to suggest PR and communications will continue to prove their worth to corporations and organizations as 2012 plays out.

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