What are the trade reports saying about the PR and marketing industry?
We have seen many articles recently stating that the PR industry has been exposed to both huge budget and job cuts. I think this press [see here from BrandRepublic and PRWeek], has been triggered by the IPA Bellwether Report and it is potentially creating a false impression of trading conditions. It is a shame that many of our industry publications are reporting these negative stories, which in turn have a psychological impact on client spend, hindering their potential for growth. We would like to make it really clear that we are not criticising any individual media titles and are only commenting on the general news climate being presented to the industry. It is just one of many downbeat sources that may have triggered the on-going negative mindset.
What do you think has caused the negative press coverage of the PR industry?
It has been a tough financial time over the last few years and when this happens there is usually a tendency to focus on the negatives. I think the media agenda has got into the mindset of getting ready for the situation getting worse, which makes for a compelling story. Amongst high levels of scaremongering, work is there for the taking despite successive cuts in marketing budgets.
What is actually going on in the PR industry at the moment?
From our point of view it is a period of change for clients. We are witnessing more short term project based work, and clients who postponed their retained PR a while ago have returned, having missed the service. There are some really good businesses and brands out there ignoring the frequent reports of dwindling business confidence and they are flourishing.
There is every reason to be optimistic and energetic. If anything, it is all the more exciting than pre-recession conditions; we just have to be smarter than before! The current environment presents an opportunity for our clients to streamline and force greater efficiency. The marketing and PR campaigns that are winning are the ones that are being big, bold and positive amongst the negativity.
How do the reports relate to Apt Marketing & PR? Has the agency been witnessing a drop in marketing spend, and if so, how has this affected the agency?
We have seen a mixed response. For instance, on Friday last week we won a new PR contract as well as receiving a resignation from a company which had been with us for seven years. Swings and roundabouts is the nature of the businesses, but the variety of opportunities and new business enquiries is plentiful, so these media reports on declining statistics are not reporting the whole story.
What effect has this negative trade press had on PR and marketing agencies?
The effect is twofold. For those going through a tough time it comforts them and confirms what they think they know. For those who have repositioned themselves or held firm, it’s a bit of a poisoned chalice; on the one hand you feel that you have conquered it and on the other you wonder if it will be you who will be next.
How can PR professionals overcome the lack of confidence that may be associated with negative trade press?
By putting out the good stories and strong case studies. So many of our clients are still winning business, introducing new initiatives and refreshing what they have always done.
What would you like to tell prospective clients, who may have read these reports, about using PR and marketing for their business?
PR and marketing is still the most cost effective way of supporting your brand and ultimately your sales. It is not clever to be invisible these days and is often a false economy to completely wipe marketing and PR from your strategy. The service can be tailored to what you need at a particular time.
Ironically, the PR industry tends to have a hard time creating a good image about itself! Is there anything that can be done to improve this?
Bad news and bad press is always going to win out. Ask any PR: the hardest stories to get coverage for are the good stories. Fear, gloom, restriction, redundancies, lost orders and trouble all get covered much faster!
Journalism is not what it was in previous years. Now in this 24/7 news culture, it is so much harder to build a trusted relationship. Journalists are constantly being bombarded with stories from different PRs that there is too much noise. They adopt a cynical closed stance for any PR that has any kind of link to a commercial business. Journalists need compelling story opportunities for relevant content, so it is a two way street.
What’s been happening recently at Apt?
Fortunately, everything is the opposite of the negative PR reports! We have just introduced an additional member of staff to our PR department, Kalli Soteriou, and have a flurry of new projects, with three new retained clients for January 2013, so things are buoyant. We have recently authored a robust response to a government committee on cosmetic interventions in the beauty Industry, which is immensely satisfying, challenging and proves that PR is vital when the going gets tough. Ignore PR and marketing at your peril!