2012: the Year of...
2012 is many things - Jubilee Year, Olympic Year, etc. - but what will it hold for PR agencies?
Firstly, demand is likely to come from businesses seeking reputation management, B2B, CSR and financial PR. Anything that supports a business case and can develop leads, enhance a reputation within a community and engage with potential customers. This could come from many quarters, including technology, professional services, energy and the financial sectors, to name a few. By contrast, any business directly exposed to consumer spending is likely to think hard about how to spend its marketing budget. The evidence this year is clear: people are buying on price and brands are reacting to that by pushing price promotions and merchandising rather than brand building, NPD or awareness campaigns. And recent surveys suggest that not only has the economy materially weakened, but consumer confidence is dwindling.
Of course, there are exceptions to the rule. Challenger brands in particular will invest in PR and other tools in order to capture market share amongst disaffected consumers looking for a change - with such a consistently poor economic backdrop, those that do differentiate their proposition certainly stand to gain - Brewdog, for example, has had a fantastic year.
It is also likely to be the Year of the Crisis. We are already helping businesses associated with the Olympics to test their protocols and crisis procedures, but well beyond the set piece events of 2012, businesses are more atuned to the possible impact of negative PR than ever before. Social media continues to play its part in that - the speed with which an issue can escalate into a crisis has completely changed and, more often than not, that transformation takes place in real time, in the full gaze of the world's media, your customers, consumers and other stakeholders. There really is nowhere to hide anymore, is there?
Crisis management is fast becoming one of my passions. It is rewarding, intellectually challenging and the stakes are often so high, that a positive outcome is hugely valuable. I have been involved in the development of a new specialist crisis management team in Grayling - a team of 10 board level specialists, each with their own set of skills, perspectives and experience to draw on, and drawn from around the country, too. It has been hugely interesting to work with peers on such a fascinating and increasingly fluid discipline, and I have no doubt our crisis offering is all the better for it.
2012 will also be the Year of Talent. I can say that with confidence because we have just completed three separate rounds of recruitment at Grayling and the fresh, new talent we have unearthed is really heartening. To see such commitment and intelligence amongst our new intake is great for us but it's good news for the industry, too - the process confirms our suspicions that there is talent to be found. It is our job as industry professionals to convince the best people to turn their hand to PR rather than anything else.
Let's hope the year 2012 brings opportunity, challenges and talent in spades.