This was a very significant week for the PR industry. Here are six observations on our competitive environment.
First, we are outperforming advertising in a significant way. Every PR firm shrank by low- to mid-single digits but that is far better than the double-digit declines in advertising.
Second, we are all increasingly reliant on the health business. IPG said that 30 percent of its business in PR, events and sports is now in health care. Health is among the most important sectors for Edelman.
Third, the clients want solutions across communications from PR to digital to data to experiential. That is why Andy Polansky, Executive Chairman of Weber Shandwick, aggregated the former CMG units into IPG DXTRA. BCW announced an e-commerce unit to advise clients. At Edelman, we are well down that same path with our Earned Reimagined work rooted in strategy, earned creative and powered by data & insights for a digital world.
Fourth, the media landscape is increasingly dominated by social media players Facebook, Google, Twitter and Spotify. Digital cannot be a separate unit; it must be integrated into everything we do as we go direct to end users of information.
Fifth, the WFH trend will cause agencies to reconsider their real estate footprint now and in the future. WPP’s senior management said that they will cut office space by 20 percent and move to more meeting space with fewer dedicated seats for the team.
Sixth, the gap between what we had hoped and what we observe on Covid-19 has never been greater. We will need to be active in employee communications to help people cope with additional lock downs. We should also encourage clients to be generous with food and other products for those in need.
I fear that we are re-entering the eye of the storm just as government is at a low ebb in trust and citizens are fed up with compliance. Truth frequently and well-told compassion will be the essential life jacket to get us through not only the pandemic, but the elections in the U.S., as well.
This week, we studied the relationship between companies, their employees, and the general population as we approach an election that’s likely to be prolonged and/or contested. Our Trust Barometer Special Report: Trust and the U.S. Election found a bi-partisan mandate (72 percent) for large employers to be ready to respond if there is a prolonged or contested election. For employees, this means advocating for a calm and fair process and creating a safe workplace. Two-thirds of employees told us they want the opportunity to opt-in to reliable election information about the election process and its impact on them from their employer on a weekly basis or more. Similarly, among the general population, business earns the most trust when its response to an unclear election is to denounce violence and call for a calm and fair process.
Whatever strategy you employ to communicate in this tense, hyper-partisan environment, ensure that it is grounded in your mission, values and employee expectations.
Richard Edelman is CEO.