Client budget cuts of ten to 20 per cent have been commonplace in many areas – and this on top of the market slowdown during 2008 (as documented by PRWeek’s Top 150 PR Consultancies report, published today).
But public sector comms has been a different story. Spend on PR has continued to grow for both central and local government, as well as for many quangos. Many public sector organisations continue to recruit healthily, while private sector firms batten down the hatches. For this reason, in part, there has also been a new influx of highly talented communicators moving into public sector PR roles.
It is easy for those in the private sector to forget just how much money is now spent on public education campaigns or in change management programmes within government, or within the NHS or child protection agencies. We are often talking about media departments that employ hundreds of people and that face hugely complex and cutting-edge comms issues.
Another reminder of the vibrancy of public sector comms is the revelation this week that Essex County Council’s comms department is setting up its own consultancy arm, including an intention to even advise private sector organisations (see news section).
This should come as no surprise after 12 years of Labour government, particularly the past two years under a Prime Minister who is highly supportive of state intervention.
But can growth in public sector PR continue apace?
By the time you read this, you should have a better view of what this week’s budget means for the public sector. It is likely to mean tighter purse strings all round. Of course a change of government, which is likely to take place a year hence, could have an even bigger impact.
And yet privately, many within David Cameron’s leadership are not so hawkish about public sector comms. As Boris Johnson has found, it is difficult to achieve anything these days without bringing key stakeholder groups onside.