PR is no longer the poor relation to advertising

As some of the PR world spent this week pressing its eager nose to the Cannes advertising window in the south of France, negative US economic indicators fail to dent the inexorable rise in demand for communications and corporate reputation counsel.

As some of the PR world spent this week pressing its eager nose to the Cannes advertising window in the south of France, negative US economic indicators fail to dent the inexorable rise in demand for communications and corporate reputation counsel.

The Cannes judges once again gave most of their PR awards to advertising agencies but, in the real world, on Wednesday, the Federal Reserve downgraded its economic outlook, cutting GDP growth projections for 2011 to 2.8% from 3.2%, with 2012 now looking more like 3.5% than 4%.

I have previously stated that PR is going to have a fantastic 2011, but I don't want to come over as some sort of one-eyed PR cheerleader in the face of negative broader trends without hard evidence to back up my contention for our industry.

So, also on Wednesday, I spoke to a senior PR agency global CEO and got a bellwether for his group's prospects in the light of wider economic trends. His feedback was that, despite the less positive macroeconomic environment, PR is still having a great year – especially in the US and growth markets, but even in Europe, where economic woe far outweighs the challenges President Obama and Ben Bernanke are facing.

Social media is fueling PR growth, providing new channels to communicate, engage in conversations with consumers, and create compelling content. Organic growth from existing clients unlocking budgets to which PR hasn't previously had access is being multiplied by the ability to cross sell and service more geographical locations across more practice areas. New business is also picking up again as Q3 approaches, after a quieter Q2 following the bumper quarters at the end of 2010 and start of 2011.

Clients are increasing their overall spend in all the areas in which PR specializes, which include the marketing and branding disciplines highlighted in Cannes, but also PR's extra unique skill sets in public affairs and corporate reputation - which ad agencies are never going to touch.

It's no time to be complacent, but rather than agonizing about how to gain the approbation of an advertising community that is being told by major clients such as Unilever to restructure around consumers, let's shed our inferiority complex and celebrate the fact that PR is already there and concentrate on building our competitive advantage.

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