Tag Archives: Recession

Another lost generation?

Today it has been officially announced that we are out of recession!!

Well if you are looking to start a career this news will make scant impression on you.

The 1990 recession ended when you had a “proper” job – I still think many people who graduated in the early 90s are still feeling the affects of their bad timing at being born some 20 years earlier.  Can do better next time if he applies himself.

The 90s recession ended in about 1997 if truth be told for many people.  Bill Clinton, new technology, the Internet easing communication and attracting investment, the start of de-regulation of US banks (which had been put in place by FDR in the 30s that helped create the worst recession since the 30s) all had a role to play.

The fact for many is that careers were missed, and why?, because in the case of the marketing industry there was a reluctance to develop people – give them a chance.  Of course some made it nevertheless, but the industry was unwelcoming and expected 21 years experience and candidates to be 20 years old.

I can only hope that the recovery does not exclude vast swathes of able people, but it will.

It is time for business to recognise that talent does not come from doing a marketing degree or experience only.  There is a lot to be said for determination, personal characteristics such as being sociable, open to learning.

For professionals that have lost their jobs who are on the other side of the age divide, there is no reason why some businesses should discriminate – it is the person, not the age that counts.

What am I saying: the world is unfair?

It is true.

What I am saying is:

Treat people with respect – there will be too many graduates wanting a career where there are too few openings and some HR departments will enjoy thinking they are of a higher power.  It is the personal characteristics that I think make a good marketer, but can you spot these and are they developed when you are a new graduate?

If you want a career in PR or marketing, the chances are you will succeed if you are determined and what might seem a bleak age now will dissolve away in time. Give yourself time and accept support when going through the often bleak process of finding a job.

I think I will tackle how to give yourself a real head start in an entry shortly – keep tuned

PR spending returning, slowly

PR spending returning
PR spending returning is returning but not as fast as PR agencies would like

PR spend for 2010 looks hopeful, albeit weak according to the Bellweather Report.

As mentioned in my annual review post, it seemed that business was picking up in Q4 and this seems to be confirmed by the report.

Spend is still in decline, but at a rate of 4% for Q4 compared to 24.4% for Q3.  It might be that Q1 is the bottom and that PR money will be released.

Recruitment is positive with nearly 40% seeing new staff appointments in 2010 and client budget is also on the up for over a third of those surveyed.  However, respondent numbers are small although trends seem to reflect a lot of conversations I have.

There is still the shock of a public sector cut back as early as summer, so while the overall trend looks reassuring there might be some hard times for agencies with a public sector client base.

Will there be more shocks for the economy, even though the US and China picture is encouraging?

Is the recession over?

Oh who can hold a fire in his hand

By thinking on the frosty Caucasus?

Or cloy the hungry edge of appetite

By bare imagination of the feast?

Or wallow naked in December snow

By thinking on fantastic summer’s heat?

Oh no, the apprehension of the good

Gives but the greater feeling to the worse.

Bolingbroke Richard II

I have heard so many things in the media about green shoots.

A year ago it was financial meltdoom and economic gloom.  I am sure I read a variation on that theme for four months in The Times.  Did the media get bored and decide to talk up a recovery?

There are  always the estate agenices and other vested interests talking up the housing market, so is it all propaganda?

Well my experience of the last couple of months has been positive.

Over summer many decision makers and their companies were still taking cover, hatches firmly shut.

But now the sentiment does appear to have changed.

I have been talking to 1-2 businesses a week that are looking at PR.  I have the feeling that many businesses realise that they have survived, but they now have to compete for work.  And how do you do that?

These meetings are serious and purposeful in intent.

I have asked others who have confirmed this change is not my imagination or a quirky piece of fortune.

I cannot say this enthusiasm and openess to look at using communications is here to stay, the economy is not robust.  We can talk up a recovery and try to generate confidence, but it will fall down if the reality cannot catch up.  However, there is perhaps a realisation by business that to stand still now is not really an option.

Ed has got some balls

Ed Balls, former economic advisor to Gordon Brown and current secretary of state for children, schools and families, came out with a frankly staggering statement reported today by the BBC.

Addressing a Labour audience he said the financial crisis will be “more extreme and more serious than that of the 1930s.”

Balls didn’t mince words,  “The reality is that this is becoming the most serious global recession for, I’m sure, over 100 years as it will turn out.”

What was he thinking?

Where communications is all important in politics how could he be so irresponsible?  It is not really the most reassuring messaging.  Well it is not messaging, it is just blunt.  Downing Street attempted to play down the comments.

Speaking after Gordon Brown used the word “depression” during prime minister’s questions (later explained away as a slip of the tongue) you would think all government ministers would be watching their words carefully.  The Labour communications team would be ensuring a clear, honest but confidence building message, well as much as is possible.

Now we have a situation where there has been a big balls up, which will make brown the colour of the week.

Looking to accentuate the positive

Business Desk has recognised there is only so much doom and business reporting gloom you can take.  To be fair a number of NW business publications are looking for positive stories, realising that there are many businesses that are still thriving.  Indeed, I work with two that do especially well in these economic times.

Chris Barry says in his article today on Business Desk there are “plenty of business people striving to grow their firms despite the downturn and we will look to highlight their stories.” A much welcomed approach.  Newspapers are there to report and have no obligation to be positive, but there has been a lack of balance across much of the press recently.

In November I placed a story in the Salford Advertiser (below) in response to insolvency practice Begbies Traynor’s apocalyptic assessment of Salford businesses looking into the abyss.

On the nationals’ side I am not so sure.  One contact that receives a lot of media requests at his work has told me that the calls they receive want redundancies, redundancies, redundancies.

The media onslaught

It is like looking at an avalanche hurtling towards you and you cannot out run it.  In fact you have short legs and you have sprained your ankle.

I got back from holiday with a bug and no appetite, either food wise or media wise, considering the deluge of bad news.

Now, the media cannot be blamed for poor lending practices, over borrowing, naivety that a boom is never going to end, greed or any of the other causes that can be attributed to the recession.  But even the most optimistic might begin to feel they are mired at the edge of civilisation.  Should we all go round the world for a year or live it up on the dole and see whether our new band will make it?

I wonder how long it will take before good news stories start to dig us out of this hole when the storm has passed.

Do not close off communications when the downturn bites

Tom Bloxham and the Urban Splash team have had a rough time recently.  Even though the enterprise is something of a beacon in the Manchester property sector it has had to make painful layoffs.

But Tom has approached one media channel (The MEN) in the right way at a time when he probably felt like ignoring it: he communicated and got his point of view across.

So many business do not.  By talking he was able to come over as honest and put over his direction to see Urban Splash come back from this set-back and current market conditions.

There will be businesses that react in the opposite way and lose out.  It reminds me of the effects of the dotcom crash:

I was working for an Internet agency that claimed the quite powerful local newspaper did not like them.

I suggested we speak to the business team.  The answer from management was that it was a bad idea: they didn’t like them.

The problem was that the agency had got lots of good editorial when things were going well in the late 90s.  As soon as the dotcom downturn happened they battened down the hatches and refused to speak to the media.

The first piece of coverage I achieved, a good quarter page, had a sting in the tail.  After talking about a big project it noted, with glee, that the agency had failed by a long shot to meet the ambitious aims it had announced in the late 90s.

I arranged to meet the deputy business editor to sort out any issues, got on very well and achieved a lot of coverage over the following 18 months.  (I actually keep in contact with him).

Working with the media is a two way process.  It is not a tap to switch on and off, whatever is happening with a business or the economy.  It is better if a business wants to suspend communications to explain why (off the record) and resume a PR campaign when it feels this is appropriate.  Having the courtesy and thoughtfulness to do this will win any business a lot of credit.

Stop it – no to signing in to leave comments

I have been wallowing in the misery that is PRs writing about the recession.  Well, actually it is how to come through it from Rainier PR and another from one of their agency staff, Stephen Waddington.

I wanted to leave comments and found I had to sign in.  I couldn’t be bothered.  I have migrated to a new ISP and in the process my stored passwords were wiped.  I could look them up, but I really can’t steal myself to do this on a Sunday morning.

Lazy? Yes.  But why do some blogs and websites still insist on signing in?  If it takes any longer than necessary to leave a comment or it does not have a track back, you are going to lose the interaction that makes any blog or website vital.

Crunch time for Manchester PR agencies?

Manchester PR agencies have been recruiting and getting fat on impressive account wins for some time.  That’s alright.

It seemed that the MEN media section and other Manchester / North West / trade publications have had little trouble finding positive stories.  But now that we are all going to be Okies and live in Hoovervilles (if recent front page editorials from the nationals are anything to judge by), how will this affect the city’s PR outfits?

The  Drum magazine quoting Plimsoll, an industry analyst, paints a bad picture of the industry as a whole.  Findings for 1,000 UK agencies surveyed include:

  • 30% of workforce could have to go
  • 75% of agencies need to reduce headcount
  • 116 agencies need to consolidate immediately or their survival is in question
  • 20% of agencies are running at a loss

I spoke to an  PR supplier the industry on Friday and these figures are being reflected in bahaviour.  So much so that agencies are cutting back on £200 extras that would not have been questioned before.


There is a good side though.  There is hope.

Firstly, until something happens it is not 100% definite that it is going to happen.  It sounds like tautology I know.  The slow down could be brief, shallow; cheaper oil and lower interest rates could work.   I am not sure I believe this, but….

Secondly The Drum carried out a poll that found, after digital, PR was viewed as the marketing discipline most suited to survive in a recession.

Thirdly, as Bron Earnes of Hasilmann Taylor (not Manchester based, but I will accept her viewpoint)  says agencies working to 20% margins that closely revue spending and forecasts should survive.  A conclusion could be that the industry might be better placed after a down turn because good agencies, which are keen, will survive.  It could mean a better service to clients and a better perception of the industry.

Fourthly, as Charles Tattersall of Manchester PR agency Citypress says established players and smaller agencies with lower cost bases and fees could also do well.    Some agencies will do well and adapt.

It could be an opportunity for some.  Indeed while the PR supplier said that while some agencies were making redundancies, there was some that were just full on with their expansion.

Is the media talking us into a recession?


I am starting to hear this criticism being levelled at the media, as though any financial difficulties can be attributed solely to some irresponsible journalists.

If that is true, surely any upturn can be attributed to those same guys. So if your house has trebled in value you should be thanking your friendly local business journalist. Go on treat them to an expensive meal out at the very least.

It is true that confidence is everything. And of course the media has a strong influence here. But the fickle ebbing and flow of that precious feel good factor has more to it than the media wallowing in doom ridden scenarios, if we take away some ridiculous articles: one such piece in a national today claimed that the property market will not recover for 20 years. Who are you Mystic Meg or whatever she was called before the lottery. About as reliable.

The fact is the banks over lent, credit card companies over lent, mortgage companies over lent. We want our money back: Credit Crunch. I don’t have an economics degree I know but it didn’t help the lenders, so.

The media has power, it can influence, but somewhere, at least here, it is for the most part reporting the mistakes of others.

If you want to blame someone there are much more credible targets and some of them unfortunately include ourselves.