Unprecedented opportunity and challenge await the industry in '09

The PRWeek Awards celebrated its 10th anniversary last Thursday (see Book of the Night, inserted). As is always the case, the event celebrated a mix of traditional and new, highlighting the industry's best and brightest agencies, campaigns, individuals, and techniques.

The PRWeek Awards celebrated its 10th anniversary last Thursday. As is always the case, the event celebrated a mix of traditional and new, highlighting the industry's best and brightest agencies, campaigns, individuals, and techniques. The ceremony serves as a pinnacle to the year's work, and one will often find the post-show reception is a mixture of wistful remembrances of campaigns past and prognostications for future endeavors.
 
We usually feel there is great post-Awards momentum to do great work, and we certainly hope that continues this year. Our Op-Eds so far in 2009 have been a rich source of both optimism and pragmatism, but thankfully devoid of pessimism or defeatism. By all means we should be prudent in our forecasts and budgets, but we should also be dynamic and vocal in asserting PR's power. As you will have read in this week's editorial,  PRWeek believes this has been the industry's one true Achilles' heel so far this year.
 
We are in a government-run climate these days, and the world is filled with a frightened, angry populace. I need not lecture this audience about how the public has sometimes viewed its work as spin or subterfuge. What astounds me is that PR pros seemingly fight back when an uninformed commentator on CBS categorizes them as prevaricators, but the outrage is subdued when a BreakingViews.com piece syndicated in key business outlets criticizes a company (AIG) for hiring PR firms. The industry must take a close look at its priorities. I am asking thought leaders to mount strong defenses of the industry in our Op-Ed section.
 
But PR should also let the work speak for itself. This year's Campaign of the Year, Ketchum and IKEA's “Man Lives in IKEA,” was done for less than $15,000. Splashy, expensive efforts are great, but they will likely be exceptions this year. The rule will be lower budget, with an ROI that the C-suite and investors can quickly grasp. We fully anticipate PRWeek Awards 2010 entries will focus more on the budget than any year in the past.
 
Firms and clients alike will be fixated on keeping costs down, but this is a great chance to restructure or rethink the PR team model. It is well believed that there will be a free-for-all for marketing dollars once the economy rebounds. The industry might be in good shape to at-tract those dollars, based on its digital bonafides and expertise in conversational marketing. But it would be foolish to be cautious and stay complacent as the financial winter continues.

Now is the time for firms and marketing arms to set themselves up for the inevitable sprint that follows the bottom – whenever that will be.

We hope you took the time to congratulate yourself for a successful 2008 (Q4 aside). But work begins anew, and 2009 will truly test the mettle of this industry and its leaders.

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