Editorial: Measuring up to expectations

Economists and financial commentators have been divided on the likely effects of the crisis in Asian markets on the more robust Western economies.

Economists and financial commentators have been divided on the

likely effects of the crisis in Asian markets on the more robust Western

economies.



But in the last few weeks the initial scare stories have mellowed as it

appears that the end of the world may not be at hand after all.



So far the UK PR business has remained relatively unconcerned by

developments in far flung foreign lands, but there has already been some

fall-out closer to home which should not be lightly brushed aside.



This week, for example, the South Korean manufacturer Samsung has

announced that it is to axe 33 staff from its London-based European

headquarters.



Among the casualties is the entire corporate communications department

of three. Meanwhile, the internal communications manager, who left in

December, will not be replaced, and the future of the corporate PR

account with Paragon hangs in the balance.



In the context of the crisis threatening a large multi-national company

and its country’s entire economic system, the loss of a handful of

personnel seems a trifling thing. But it sends a chilling message to the

public relations business, for whom the dark days of recession now seem

a distant memory. The message is that when times get hard the public

relations function is still considered an expendable luxury.



In good times, companies fall over themselves to buy into the concept

that good communication can help your business. It’s not a difficult

idea for PR practitioners to sell - a simple appeal to common sense

usually does the trick. But it is when a company is under pressure that

the need for PR advice is more crucial than ever if confidence is to be

restored among key audiences such as investors, consumers and staff.



It is tempting to think that it is now widely understood that public

relations is an essential component of any well-run organisation. But it

is worth considering the possibility that many businesses still believe

that PR is desirable only when you can afford it.



The missing link in this puzzle is the ability to produce concrete

evidence of the impact of public relations on the bottom line - rather

than its impact on the media. PR people may find it hard to persuade

companies to spend what appears to be a vast sum in relation to size of

the overall public relations budget on discovering whether the thing

actually works or not. But persuade them they must, if PR is not to be

among the first items to be cut when the going gets tough.



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