At the New York City #HAPPO Hour last week, professionals representing many top public relations agencies were on the lookout for talent. Representatives from firms such as Burson Marstellar, Peppercom, MS&L, Devries PR, and Ruder Finn worked the room, looking to meet potential hires. In fact, the number of professionals in the room, who were wearing badges identifying themselves as an actively hiring employer or mentor, nearly matched the number of job seekers and students.
“In 2009 and 2010, it seemed as though many of the clients we pitched were not ready to make a decision,” commented one NYC agency pro. “Recently, however, it seems like clients are starting to move forward. Whether they pick our agency, or another, they are making a decision.” And as firms gear up to take on new business, finding employees quickly becomes a top priority.
In a recent PRNewser post, Ketchum CEO Ray Kotcher noted an increase in the number of RFPs and account wins floating around. “There’s been a bit of a lift from the economy,” Kotcher said. But he said the “lift” was the normal course of business for this time period as “clients are lining up their comms partners for the coming year. You’re also seeing PR taking on much more importance than it has in the past.”
Kotcher noted three key areas of growth for the PR industry:
- social media, digital media, and word of mouth
- research, measurement, and analytics
- continued need for corporate and crisis work (particularly in regards to B-to-B, electronics, and established tech companies
Harris Diamond, CEO of IPG’s Constituency Management Group, which houses its PR firms, including GolinHarris, Weber Shandwick, and DeVries Public Relation, also had a positive message to share with PRNewser readers, “We’re just seeing a tremendous focus with companies more and more seeing the wisdom of looking for programs the reach their constituent groups,” he shared, explaining that across all PR businesses, practices, and geographies, business has experienced and continues to experience growth. Diamond pointed out opportunities available for the industry in areas traditionally reserved for advertising specifically, “Mega events,” like the Super Bowl.
As I chatted amongst the attendees at the New York #HAPPO event, I was inspired to hear so many opportunities, but was struck by the sense of urgency. The last few years have resulted in lean staffs, struggling to provide excellence with very limited resources. Businesses have rightfully been cautious in making the investments necessary to embrace growth and opportunity. Headlines such as “Is PR dead?” questioned the very existence of our industry.
I believe the industry is emerging from these tough economic times stronger, and more necessary than ever before. Budgets are returning, but with a heightened sensitivity to the importance of efficiency and a deep understanding of the precious fragility of growth.
Growth will not be without its challenges. Is your organization preparing to hire or add additional resources for your PR efforts? How has the economic downturn impacted the way your organization is allocating resources?