From the editor - Global business could offset recession

It has taken almost a year to happen, but the wind has finally changed direction. It was in mid-August last year - during similarly balmy weather - that the first hints of problems emerged, with a surprise run on stock markets around the world.

During the latter quarter of 2007 the credit crunch took hold, but even at Christmas the picture looked mixed. By Easter 2008 things were feeling pretty gloomy - in the housing market, on the high street - and yet the vital signs from the PR industry remained upbeat.

It is only in the latter half of July that the prevailing mood of the industry became one of stoicisim rather than optimism.

Thankfully we have yet to see the worst aspects of recession: significant in-house job losses and PR agencies going out of business. But read the business pages and all the indicators are pointing downwards. Lord Chadlington, the boss at Huntsworth, believes this recession could be the worst for 35 years.

And yet, despite all this gloom, managers talk optimistically to me about their individual businesses.

The bright side is that PR does remain lean and highly cost-effective compared with other marketing disciplines.

PR consultancy is also incredibly flexible. Consumer PR agencies can switch to luxury markets, where profits are so far holding up. Financial specialists can look to hedge funds, private equity and alternative listings rather than ailing stock markets. Corporate advisers can shift their focus from expansion strategies to restructuring and internal comms.

And this flexibility is increasingly geographical. Already there are signs that agencies are moving resources to areas such as the UAE and Russia, which are crying out for UK comms expertise. So, while the UK market is unlikely to hit 2007 growth rates, which exceeded 15 per cent, there are many other markets that will.

One of PR's big hopes is that it has finally become a global business.

Make sure you attend PR Global, PRWeek's international reputation management summit on 29 September. Details on the home page of prweek.com/uk.

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