PR companies stay ahead of industry needs

PPR Australia has bought local public relations firm RHK as part of a major shift in the public relations scene in Perth.

The move follows the announcement that PPR WA has stuck a $600,000 deal with the CHROME Global Group.

While RHK will continue to operate under its own name, the firm will capitalise on the major infra-structure and administration of the national PPR group and its profess-ional alliances.

RHK Public Relations managing director Errol Considine said the two firms had been in discussions for some time.

“Good people are the basis of PR and that was one of the attractions of this deal. We make a pretty formidable team,” Mr Considine said.

“In the end, the public relations industry is built on people, a number of strong personalities dominate the industry.

“Once a firm loses a couple of key figures they can very quickly find themselves stuck somewhere out in the political and social wilderness.”

While industry professionals maintain the business is still about formidable communication skills, public relations has taken its place next to marketing and human relations as a strategic part of any corporation’s core business.

In the past, when a company has been in trouble, the first budget to get the axe was public relations. It’s now more common for businesses to increase their spending in this sector if the outlook is a bit grim.

But the market itself has also shifted, with clients more demanding and public relations firms expected to draw on a wide range of professional expertise to find solutions.

In response to these demands, the industry appears to be going through a process of aggregation not dissimilar to the accounting industry in the late 80s and early 90s, which produced a small number of big, multi-skilled firms.

“The same thing is beginning to happen globally in our business,” said Rob Broadfield a director of Newscomm where former State Government Media Office chief Barry Thornton is currently working.

“Companies generally cluster around each other and public relations, marketing and advertising companies form massive global companies.

“It’s the way to go in our business, old style PR is dead.”

The ‘game’ has become much more strategic and public relations firms are called looked on as business advisers and strategic planners, rather than an add-on part of the business.

Public companies require a complex web of communication strategies to deal with shareholders, regulatory bodies and to continue brand building in the wider community.

Newscomm is currently exploring a global partnership in a similar vein to the deal struck with PPR, CHROME Global and RHK.

“We’re already half way through the process. We’ve made a decision to leapfrog Australia and go to the global market,” Mr Broadfield said.

“I think a trend is emerging. The same thing happened with the advertising industry,” PPR WA managing director Paul Niardone said.

With clients demanding highly specialised skills and professional capabilities from their pr firm, Mr Niardone believes the major players in the industry will become increasingly specialised.

PPR WA’s deal with the CHROME Global group provides clients with online communication expertise and gives CHROME Global’s clients access to strong offline PR services.

“As the industry becomes more specialised, so will public relations firms. I think general public rela-tions consultants will find it very difficult in the future,” Mr Niardone said.

A process of aggregation in this industry would create a wide schism between a small number of major players at the big end of town and the smaller one-man band operators who, until now, have been able to successfully compete with the bigger, high profile agencies, he said.

“There used to be big public relations companies that could offer a broad range of services and have designers and advertising managers. I don’t think you’d find a public relations company with an in-house designer any more,” Turnbull Porter Novelli director Paul Downie said.

“We’re just a public relations company, we can advise companies on where they should be heading.”

“I think 10 years ago we were a good barometer of when people were in trouble, and now we help keep them in the marketplace.”

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