David Singleton: Too early to celebrate the revival

Last week, house prices recorded their first rise in 16 months, leading some experts to say that the housing market may have passed its lowest point. Yet other experts warned home owners not to read too much into a single month's figures.

David Singleton
David Singleton

Reports from the PR world also seem to pour cold water on the idea that we are creeping towards the end of the recession. Take the quarterly Bellwether Report from the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising, which was released this week. The report lumps PR, events and market research together and tells us budgets in this generic category continued to see a sharp decline over the past quarter – although the rate is slowing down.

A starker indication that the PR industry is still suffering is this week’s news that Trimedia has made at least seven staff redundant. Few agencies have lost so many staff in one go since the onset of the credit crunch. But while those in consumer and City PR will empathise, others have not been affected.

In particular, healthcare specialists are reporting growth and various public affairs agencies are profiting as CEOs prepare for a Tory government.

Yet most agencies are clearly verging on the side of pessimism.

As we report on page two, almost a third of agency bosses on the PRCA Leaders’ Panel have rated their financial prospects better than three months ago – but more said the outlook had become worse.

The PRCA’s research also shows the vast majority of agency chiefs believe the PR industry has not yet reached the bottom of the recession. Rather, most expect the end to come in the last quarters of 2009 or in 2010. Only a tiny optimistic handful believe the industry has already seen the worst of the recession.

It would seem agency bosses have been listening carefully to the recent utterances of the Chancellor. Alistair Darling’s Budget is due on 22 April and he is expected to forecast that the recovery will not start until the end of the year.

The industry will be hoping he is wrong, but many PR bosses appear to share his gloomy prognosis.

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