EDITORIAL: Widen offer to aid speedy recovery

It comes as no surprise that the tech PR sector suffered heavy financial losses in 2001, but the fact that the sector also shows precious few signs of growth this year underlines how distant a recovery may be.

PRWeek's league table of the UK's Top 50 tech agencies shows that, of the 40 firms in the ranking that supplied fee income for two years, exactly half showed income declines. Average growth among the agencies with income purely from tech was three per cent, while those with multiple practice areas grew by an average of two per cent. Few are now saying this year holds much more promise than last.

But the recession has changed the landscape in the sector in a way that may pay off when the recovery arrives. Operating with tighter budgets in the wake of the marketing largesse of recent years, tech clients now demand more for their money and expect measurable results in return for investment.

In light of this, some of the more entrepreneurial tech agencies are offering a suite of services outside their traditional skill set: analyst relations, PA, media training, and in some cases, photography.

But this is not an entirely new scenario. Having often started as B2B firms, the same agencies have in recent years developed consumer practices to reflect growth in the consumer tech, telecoms and new media sectors.

Now the sector is in downturn, consultancies are adapting to market conditions once again, and the success of each venture will depend upon how well it is managed. Although the current figures indicate a time lag between investing in diversification and reaping its rewards, the efforts of tech firms to broaden their offering will pay off in the long-term.

The ability of more mainstream consultancies to go the extra mile for clients will not only support their bread and butter income while times are hard, but prove lucrative when a recovery does come.

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