OPINION: Small city shops should be valued

There is probably more money in financial public relations now than there has ever been, but paradoxically it looks harder than ever to get started.

There are some obvious succe­sses from recent times - Tul­chan, which is headed by Andrew Grant, while Pelham, formed by James Henderson and others, has recen­tly appointed Jeremy Deedes as its chairman. But these seem to be outnumbered by the amount of two or three person teams who gave it a go and then decided it was not going to work.

Indeed Gainsborough which, with Andy Cornelius and others, looked like it was developing into a nice little business, has recently abandoned the independent life to move in with College Hill.

It may just be a factor of financial PR but the message seems to be that firms either have to get big or get out. If so, that is a pity because the busi­ness is the richer for its variety and that variety comes from having a lot of smaller firms and indiv­iduals who stamp their own personality and style on what they do, untainted by what they were taught at university.

Today, with the proliferation of media outlets and sources, you will need a significantly greater investment in technology just to make sure that you don't miss anything crucial - and that costs a lot.

Second, the clients have changed. Corporate executives used to hire PR advisers whom they liked and whom they often used as a personal adviser. These days the appointment of the PR firm is much more of a corporate decision which gives much less scope for the eccentric choice. Big companies feel that their public relations adviser must have a bit of an organisation behind him; marketing departments see it as a commodity to be bought as cheaply as possible.

All is not lost however, but new start ups have to curb their ambitions and gain focus in one specialist area. Thus there are still smallish firms who do well by specialising in and building a reputation in private equity, or Lloyd's insur­ance, or market infrastructure, or hedge funds. But whether they or any other newcomer will be able to break out to become another Brunswick must be in doubt. Sadly perhaps , the industry has just got too grown up.

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