PR industry’s back on track

THE public relations industry in WA is undergoing a period of buoyancy after the general downturn in business resulting from the State Government’s decision to reduce the amount of work outsourced to PR consultants.

Ward Holt managing director and Public Relations Industry Association WA president, Marie-Louise Sinclair, told WA Business News the current market for public relations consultants was significantly stronger than it was 18 months ago.

And the outlook also was positive, especially in the areas of community consultation, investor relations and industrial/employee relations, she said.

Ms Sinclair said there was growing acceptance of the value of professional communication and its significance as a core business function, but there remained work to be done to promote the strategic role of public relations.

“It’s an old chestnut, but still sadly it is the case that the strategic role of public relations is still not universally understood,” she said.

“Practitioners can be a great deal more effective at the project planning stage than after the fact and there is still a job for the profession in getting this across.”

The Capital Group senior public relations consultant Carolyn Hamilton said the attitude towards public relations had changed during the past few years, with the definition of public relations broadening and many industries now recognising public relations as a necessary facet of their marketing strategy.

“In some industries public relations is seen as a luxury, possibly due to its intangibility … there is still a pre-conceived idea in the market that public relations is utilised more for crisis management,” she said.

PPR/RHK managing director Paul Niardone agreed that the industry had recovered from the recent slowdown and was now quite steady and strong, but he added that there were still several issues affecting the industry that needed to be addressed.

Mr Niardone said the issues of greatest concern included the continuing lack of contracts for public relations work being released by the public sector and the undercutting of prices, which was driven by single-person operations.

He said the limited contracts coming from the public sector was resulting in this work becoming very price competitive, and that the ‘one-man-band’ public relations consultancies, with their limited overhead costs compared with full-service consultancies, were able to undercut the medium and larger public relations consultancies.

“The Government is not releasing many contracts and the ones that they do release are going to the lowest price usually, which prices the larger firms right out of the market,” Mr Niardone said.

“It’s not so much competition but realistic pricing that’s the issue. I don’t think anyone is scared of competition, as a good job will always prevail,” he said.

“It’s the ability to compete fairly on price that’s the major issue.”

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