Danny Rogers: A positive sign but there is a long way to go

This week a survey from PR recruitment specialists VMA valiantly brings us some positive news about the industry.

Danny Rogers
Danny Rogers

It paints a picture of corporate comms directors who appear sanguine about their roles and their teams. Quotes from senior in-house people in the report suggest their CEOs are equally positive about the role of communication during this recession.

The report is rather more worrying for the consultancy world, revealing that 60 per cent of agencies have been asked by clients for a reduction in their fees. However, it suggests that the nature of the client/agency relationship may be changing, with a big increase in project work at the expense of retainers. In line with this, there is a consensus that many agencies will be forced to trim ten per cent of their headcount.

Much of this chimes true with the evidence that PRWeek has gathered in recent weeks. Agency chiefs continue to sound bullish about their figures, despite reporting downward pressure on fees and a tendency by clients to postpone major initiatives until the business outlook becomes clearer. Certainly while we have seen a trickle of redundancies – usually between five and ten per cent of headcount – from most of the big PR shops, a tidal wave has not been apparent.

VMA interprets these developments as evidence that the comms discipline is now more reputable than during the 1990s recession and, as a result, spend will not be as badly affected.

This writer concurs with the first part of this analysis. There is little doubt that the calibre of comms professionals is higher than two decades ago and that reputation is now recognised as a tangible asset by business leaders.

But it is too early to predict the lasting impact on the industry. The economy still shows no sign of improving, job cuts mount, and one fears this recession has still to reveal its true personality.

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