2009 PR Predictions

By Dylan Frusciano
Vice President, Southwest Region,
Business Wire 

Our public relations and investor relations friends and colleagues are already seeing, with dramatic effect, the repercussions of the current economic climate.  Even Business Wire’s own competitors have not been immune.  Positions are being cut, budgets slashed, investors are unhappy with company performances.  The list goes on and on. This is indeed a transformative time, but what exactly does that mean and what’s the predicted outcome as I see it? 

Historically, many company transformations take place during extreme uncertainty, but some can be very good.  That’s to say there are many companies, consciously or subconsciously, that do some of their best work at the worst of times.  For example purposes only, Business Wire committed to developing our patented delivery system, a major advantage we enjoy today, despite its costly incubation during the post “Tech Wreck” and 9/11 eras.  An additional positive that came from a rather poor climate was Regulation Fair Disclosure (RegFD), the byproduct of the post Enron and WorldCom era.  While RegFD is perhaps not perfect, before its implementation information was not always transparent or plentiful.  Rather, it was often obfuscated and RegFD has shored that up to a great extent. 

I would also note that it has been proven time and time again that cutting tenured staff leads to inefficiencies.  Ironically, I recently read a post on the Denver PR Blog wishing for a Harvard Business Review study that backed the notion that the extensive use of PR actually makes a company more successful.  While not the specific industry study we seek, the Harvard Business Review does say this:  “In reality, low labor costs are a slippery way to compete and perhaps the least sustainable competitive advantage there is.”  I believe this is directly applicable to the PR community right now.  I can think of no other time where I have spoken to so many tenured professionals seeking new opportunities.   

Predictions are very hard and not many have predicted the events that have led us to the current economic climate.  Furthermore, my prediction would invariably be hard for me to track or prove (alas, I am not the Harvard Business Review) and I don’t pretend to be naïve to the realities of the day.  But my prediction is this:  The PR community will struggle in 2009, but by the end of the year we will see the positive signs we seek now.  Companies that are smart and thrifty, but don’t panic, will come out of this on top.  The companies that realize public relations is muscle and not fat, keeping the tenured people or firms that are best qualified to navigate this mess, will be the thought leaders (as will those PR professionals with the ability to sell this concept to their management or clients).  Companies that don’t hide their news, but rather become more transparent and proactive, will be the unequivocal leaders at the end of the tunnel.  Those firms with the strong leadership qualities to see the opportunities that exist in otherwise inopportune times will win.  And my final prediction is this:  This, too, shall pass. 

(Note: The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the author and not of Business Wire)

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