Friday, 23 April 2010

League Table 2010

Everyone says that they don't care about the Top 150 league table. Just like they say they really don't care if they're in the Power Book or not. Do I believe them? Absolutely not!! Their studied indifference has the same ring of truth as David Cameron saying he genuinely isn't that fussed about his hair; or Gordon Brown telling us that's really quite a laid back sort of guy....

Relative positions matter, especially when there's a move into a different 'class'.

But putting the competition element aside, and looking at the industry as a whole, these are very encouraging figures. This time last year, the PR world was full of doom mongers, predicting the end of the world as we knew it -dozens of agencies turning turtle; hordes of PR execs queuing round the block to get into the dole office..... You get the picture. And what happened? The industry grew by 0.75% over the year.

Now ok, 0.75% is hardly fantastic. Compared with the boom years, it's a pretty sickly number. And very few will look back some time from now and say 'gosh 2009 was a really relaxed, confident year -if anything, perhaps things were too easy'. 2009 was a tough year. But many agencies prospered during it nonetheless, and far fewer agencies went into a nosedive than we might have expected. We ended 2009 in much better shape than we might.

Where does it leave us for 2010 and beyond? Well set in my view. If that was the worst the recession had to throw at us, well.......

Friday, 16 April 2010

It Took Only 50 Years But.....

I haven't seen the viewing figures, but last night was surely remarkable for being the moment when political debate reached out to the non-anoraks (and yes, I'm in the anorak category here), and became prime-time viewing. About time too -it's taken a mere 50 years to agree the rules after all....

Everyone's pretty clear that Clegg won the night. To an extent, the Lib Dems were inevitably going to be the big winners, just due to finally getting the same amount of airtime as the two bigger parties. But Clegg certainly seemed the most assured, and managed to pull off the classic trick of being Mr Reasonable in a three-way argument.

I've commented to PR Week on what I thought about Cameron's performance -good beginning, strong ending, but no theme or passion in the middle. The election's his to lose, so there'll be relief in CCHQ that he didn't lose it last night. But I think there'll also be disappointment.

As for Brown, well he was solid, he was just the right side of aggressive, and he got the only laugh of the evening. It wasn't, though, the game changer he needs.

The one great disappointment though was surely the set. It was, well, awful. I can't remember who it was that made the comparison last night, but it was more reminiscent of Going For Gold than of the US Presidential model it was supposed to emulate.

Two final comments. It was interesting -and it was insightful- but televised debates very rarely change the dynamic of elections. They more often serve to entrench the views we have already.

There's (rightly) much talk of how the US ones work, but the last time a debate changed the course of an election must be Carter-Reagan. And the second point is the one made by Stephan Shakespeare at You Gov. Polls immediately after such events often don't always reflect what ends up being the settled view. And if you doubt that, google the Carter Ford 1976 debate, how it was initially reported, and how it ended up being rated.

Roll on round two....

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Speed Joins PRCA

Two year and six months into me being DG, Speed has joined the PRCA.

It's a genuinely seminal moment.

The criticism laid at the door of membership bodies is that they are slow moving; that they fail properly to represent what happens in the industry they purport to represent; that they are dinosaurs in a land full of sprinters.

Those are fair criticisms. And we need to learn from them. As an industry, we must embrace digital or die. Too many people still hold out against that simple truth. And on too many occasions, the refuskins are membership bodies.

So I am absolutely delighted to welcome Stephen Waddington and Steve Earl's firm into the PRCA.

They're dynamic. They're modern. They live in the future. And now they're in the PRCA.

One final thought.

I think what Stephen has said deserves to be quoted without commentary:

“We're really impressed with how the PRCA has modernised. We welcomed the decision to broaden the membership to include client organisations, the way that the Association has embraced digital communications and its proactive campaigning on issues such as web licensing. The change has been dramatic.”

Stephen's posted about joining on his blog too. I'll leave it at that I think.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Five Years On

So, the election's finally been called.

I'm an unashamed politico, so naturally I'm interested in politics. But I'm sure that I'm not the only one who'll be following the campaign with interest until May 6th. Indeed, possibly until May 18th, when Parliament returns.

Today's announcement does make me think back five years.

On the day the 2005 election was called, I was CIPR Head of Public Affairs, and stuck in a management away day, chaired by Colin Farrington in the CIPR flat. I was also Lionel Zetter's Parliamentary agent, and eager to get back to the constituency to start our campaign. Colin very kindly allowed me to leave right away, and for the next month to squeeze my job around my agent's responsibilities. Most of the launch day was spent delivering thousands of leaflets, and touring the mean streets of Edmonton in a car covered in Tory propaganda, wielding a loud-hailer at unsuspecting voters.... Those of you who know Edmonton will know what sort of a day that makes for.

Seems a long time ago.

It prompts one related thought. I was genuinely sorry to see Colin fall ill. We had the odd disagreement after I left the CIPR, but during the time I worked for him, I found Colin a good boss and a decent guy. Now that he's left the CIPR, I hope he finds something that gives him a fresh challenge. I'm sure he will.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

PRCA-Bell Pottinger Public Affairs. Setting the Record Straight

Let's set the record straight re the PRCA and Bell Pottinger Public Affairs, shall we?

There are a couple of suggestions floating around today that somehow BPPA won't actually be listing their clients, despite joining the PRCA. These suggestions have already been rebutted by Peter Bingle and by me, but let's give it another go eh?

Let me be as blunt about this as I can be -and as is allowed by the constraints of polite language.

These suggestions are absolute rubbish.

There is no special deal; no unique exemption. There is no hidden meaning; no covert agenda.

BPPA will declare all of their clients in the same transparent, voluntary and open way that every other PRCA member does. Like every other PRCA member, there will be an incredibly limited, exceptional ability for them to request that they should not declare a particular client where to do so would be illegal; would place employees in physical danger; would breach national security restrictions. If they make any such request, they will have to provide evidence to support it.

This exemptions clause exists now, and matches the one offered by the APPC, and the one that the CIPR's new model of transparency will offer too. It is sensible, limited and ethical. It will be backed up and validated by the UK Public Affairs Council.

The thing that is certainly not sensible is to treat BPPA's decision to join the PRCA -and to embrace our rigorous disclosure demands- as something other than a very significant and positive moment. This was a big decision for BPPA, taken personally by Peter Bingle and Tim Bell; it is a significant boost to the self-regulatory model that the great majority of us support.

So my simple message is this. BPPA is a first-rate, ethical, transparent company, and I am delighted to welcome them to the PRCA.

Maybe just for once, perhaps, just perhaps, we could try and embrace good news for what it is, rather than always trying to find some hidden deceit within it?