Here's what I think 2009 will bring for those of us in Public Relations...
-- 2009 will be a tough year.
Like other business sectors, public relations agencies will face a challenging year with tightened or disappearing client budgets. For large agencies, most of which are owned by ad agency holding companies, it will still be about profit margins and increased fees and quarterly earnings. Many will get through the tough times by trimming staff and trying to get the same work out of a reduced and lower-paid (ie., less experienced) workforce. Clients, beware.
-- 2009 will be a good year.
For some agencies, it may prove to be a good year. Shops with the good fortune to have a solid base of clients in the healthcare/phrama industries may not suffer as much as others. Some, in fact, may see their billings rise as clients look to public relations as a less costly way to get thgeir messages out, compared to advertising where media costs are expected to rise even in the face of disappearing audiences.
-- Smaller agencies may prosper.
Smaller agencies with less overhead and more pricing flexibility may hold steady or even gain business in 2009. Tough economic times have historically benefitted smaller agencies, whose pricing is seen as lower than that of larger shops. Smaller agencies with specialization in areas like healthcare, digital and social media may find themselves in line to pick up added business.
-- More journalists will switch over to public relations.
There's always some movement of journalists into p.r., seeking the (supposedly) better pay. But 2009 will see even more movement out of necessity, as thousands of reporters, editors, and producers have been and will continue to be laid off from their media jobs. Many, unable to find a job at an agency or corporate p.r. department, will hang out their own shingle as freelance publicists, p.r. writers or consultants.
-- P.R. people will continue to dabble in social media.
Amazingly, there are still many in p.r. who have little familiarity with social media. Most don't blog or read blogs or use Twitter, LinkedIn and the rest. And they still don't really understand how company blogs can or should work, viewing a blog as little more than an online corporate brochure. The new year will bring more experimentation with social media. Some of the dabbling will be poor attempts, but some will be good and those successes will establish examples others will eventually follow.
-- Schools will continue to turn out entry-level people who can't write.
Sad, but true, how many recent grads have apparently not been taught the basic skills of journalistic writing. PR writing, to be effecive, must blend marketing messages within the basics of journalistic writing. B-schools must include p.r. in their marketing programs, and touch on writing. J-schools, who hopefully do focus on writing, ought to give their students some insight into p.r., so they understand how we work.
You readers might certainly come up with other predictions, which I urge you to share with us in the comments below. As for me, I'm getting ready to celebrate the New Year with some friends, good food and drink.