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