Most so-called ‘experts’ are predicting two million unemployed by Christmas and the doom-sayers foresee three million out of work within 18 months.
It is hard to see how PR will not be affected and there are rumours of in-house teams and bigger PR agencies already reducing headcount, in addition to the ubiquitous recruitment freezes.
No surprise there, you may say – this is another cyclical recession. Last year it was ‘hire’ and now it’s ‘fire’. But it may not be as straightforward as that.
Indeed, there may be a longer-term underlying shift towards smaller, media-neutral consultancies and freelance or pluralist working.
In other words the bigger agencies and in-house teams may find it hard to up-skill again when, or if, the market comes back in 2009.
Over recent years I have noticed the emergence of a number of leaner consultancies – for example Open Road, TLG or Influence – whose model is a few experienced consultants from different fields, but which seem to be appearing alongside major agencies on pitch lists, and occasionally winning surprising chunks of business.
Such consultants hail from well-known agencies, in-house jobs at major brands or from disciplines such as digital marketing or politics. Some may have been forced from their previous jobs. Others have chosen a new direction. Most seem to be doing very well.
Talk to their clients and they argue such collectives bring fresh perspectives to their business challenges, and that they get a more personal service from senior consultants.
Moreover these consultancies tend to be flexible, low-cost businesses. No bad thing in the current environment.
So maybe bigger teams and bigger agencies should be making a bigger effort towards retaining their talent, or they could be facing longer-term decline.