Opinion: 2006: a year of mixed fortunes

The most striking thing about the past 12 months is how the fortunes of the PR industry and the media have gone in opposite directions.

PR firms, particularly those in the financial arena, have had a stellar year, largely because there has been so much takeover activity - with the high fees that entails.

In addition, some of the most active players in the markets, including many of the big private-equity houses and some of the hedge funds, decided that they needed greater public engagement to minimise the possibility of a political backlash.

This has also been the year when the rest of the world discovered London. Companies in eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union and, to a lesser extent, South America and Asia - that would never have been considered a source of fees five years ago - are now very good business as they look to raise capital in London and introduce themselves to the investment community here.

If those pipelines run dry, it will be time for the Middle East. The new Dubai International Financial Centre promises to transform the region. Many PR firms have already established an office there.

In spite of - or perhaps because of - all this activity, it has not been a year for agency launches from those within big brands such as Financial Dynamics and Citigate Dewe Rogerson. But it has been a year in which relatively new firms, such as Gainsborough and Polhill, took the opportunity to power ahead.

Contrast all this with the mood in the media. There is scarcely a national newspaper that is not in decline, under the budgetary cosh, or - in the case of the Express group - giving up on home-grown financial coverage. The Business has even relaunched as a magazine.

Elsewhere, in spite of global prosperity, relative stability and buoyant markets, media advertising is poor and financial coverage is being cut: stretched to cover podcasts and websites, and generally trivialised.

A healthy PR industry feeding unhealthy media sounds very much like a formula that cannot last.
anthony.hilton@haymarket.com

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