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During a turbulent year for Europe, one during which the recession rumbled on, the Eurozone debt crisis worsened, and the end of the Eurozone appeared to be a real possibility-the public relations industry did not exactly flourish, but it certainly performed better than many observers (including this one) would have anticipated under the circumstances.
The industry’s recovery, which began for most firms in the latter stages of 2010, continued throughout 2011, and over the course of the year most of the 200 or so businesses profiled in this publication either held their own or experienced modest growth. Overall, we would expect 2011 industry growth in the
EMEA region in the mid-single digits-a respectable year.
It seems clear that two trends-both analyzed in greater detail in the coming pages-drove much of this growth. The first is that public relations firms have moved into a more central role in both corporate reputation management and brand building. In the former arena, activities such as corporate responsibility and executive leadership positioning (both of which might have been reduced in previous recessions) are now seen as vital to organizational success, and are therefore sustained despite weak economic conditions. Employee communications and organizational change is an area of growth; there has been no decline in the need for crisis communications. In the latter brand-building space, meanwhile, companies are seeing the need to engage with their consumers in new ways, most notably through digital and social media. They are coming to recognize that conversation and dialogue build
strong customer relations, and that is shifting their focus beyond a reliance on advertising to include a broader role for other disciplines, including PR.
The second trend is the involvement of PR firms in a broader range of content creation than ever before. PR firms have always produced a variety of creative materials for their clients-from annual reports to employee newsletters and in recent years a variety of web content. But today, they are being asked to produce mobile apps, infographics, blogs, games and even television programming.
One final factor in the industry’s growth is the continuing maturation of the PR business in emerging markets, in Eastern Europe, Russia and the CIS, Turkey, the Middle East and Africa. There are strong, capable firms in all of these markets, and their best work is as good as the work clients have come to express in more developed countries. Many of these firms are profiled in this volume.
While agency leaders are looking ahead to 2012 with a measure of justified trepidation, it is important to note that the threats to our industry’s prosperity are mostly external; the broader economic condition in Europe is beyond our control. But internal factors, the industry’s response to the dramatic changes in the communications landscape over the past few years, continue to present plenty of opportunity.
Paul Holmes, Editor-in-Chief, The Holmes Report