Most would agree that the most prominent PR success of 1997 was
Labour’s tightly managed general election campaign. But it hasn’t all
been plain sailing for the new Government, either in policy or
The Government Information Service, deemed not to be up to the cut and
thrust of political spin doctoring, lost many of its most experienced
hands, leading to accusations that the Government was attempting to
politicise the civil service communications function. Meanwhile, the
political spin doctors themselves became media targets after finding, to
their surprise, that party political PR gambits do not always translate
well into Government.
Chancellor Gordon Brown’s spokesman Charlie Whelan found his seat
uncomfortably hot after some ill-advised background briefings - which
led to a wholesale review of the rules for Government spokesmen.
But Labour’s PR gurus did help the Royal family through its biggest PR
crisis in decades after the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. As a
result, the Palace seems to have finally got the message about the need
to modernise its PR operation.
In business, the pace of globalisation continued, with mergers between
mighty rivals across all sectors - from telecoms to pharmaceuticals,
food and drink, and even accountancy. This trend vindicated the strategy
of the big PR groups to gear up for handling more multinational
And this week sees news of another such move as Kellogg centralises its
European PR with Hill and Knowlton.
With bigger PR budgets around, recruitment has proved tougher than
Meanwhile another sign of the times was in the number of agency deals
that were concluded or mooted this year. Independents which went under
the hammer in 1997 included Fleishman-Hillard, Charles Barker, Buchanan
and Handel. Expect more soon.
Among the most active players this year on the acquisitions front were
WPP and Omnicom. But the prize for the most innovative deal must go to
WPP’s Martin Sorrell for his inspired October purchase of 30 per cent of
Chime, which in turn snapped up ad agency HHCL as first predicted here
back in March.
Finally this year we should congratulate a PR consultancy for its
business acumen. Lexis PR not only emerged from this year’s Top 150
survey as the fastest growing agency over the last five years but this
week appeared in the Sunday Times list of the top 100 best performing
unquoted companies across all sectors. The survey identified six ’growth
types’ and cited Lexis as a prime example of companies which are ’people
champions’. It’s a motto every aspiring consultancy should adopt.