Opinion /

Irish PR Agencies Mirror Global PR Optimism for Year Ahead

A survey of global PR agencies, including two from Ireland, has found that most agencies are optimistic about business in 2021.  The survey conducted among the partners in the IPREX global platform, the second largest independent network in the world, found that most agencies agreed that the industry has survived 2020 well.

IPREX is a $420 million network of communication agencies. It has 60 partners operating with 1,220 staff and 93 offices worldwide working across the spectrum of industry sectors and practice disciplines. Its Irish partners are AM O’Sullivan PR in Cork and Walsh:PR in Dublin.

IPREX global president Julie Exner said that the PR industry became more highly valued in 2020. “In a changing environment the PR industry stepped up with the necessary support for a variety of issues and crises for its client organisations, including dealing with the complexities that arose from the mass movement of people moving to working from home.

“The pandemic didn’t add anything new, but it did accelerate issues such as the digital transformation that was already underway. For IPREX partners it also demonstrated that the capacity to share communication experiences created a strong awareness of the value of global connections. Through collaboration with partner agencies a shared understanding of the variety of communication needs during a pandemic was developed.

“Creativity and flexibility of the industry was king in 2020 due to all of the various challenges. And our IPREX partners found that clients appreciated honest consulting more than ever in the face of the uncertainty and economic problems that have come with the pandemic.”

Ann-Marie O’Sullivan, Chief Executive of AM O’Sullivan PR in Cork corroborated that view. “The value of strategic communications was really showcased in 2020. Whether organisations had a need for issue management or reputation management or needed support through a restructuring project, the PR industry stepped up with the necessary support. Internal communications, an area that organisations very often pay lip-service to, came into its own.”

Looking to 2021 Jim Walsh of Walsh:PR said that the positivity shown from the survey is in part due to the perceived need for communications support clients will require.

“Communications will become a very competitive area where businesses will need to attract back loyal customers but to also gain the attention of new customers.

“This will be even tougher for established businesses seeking to find ways to stand out among the clamour of “we’re back” messages and with new competitors seeking to stand out,” he said.

Another key learning from the IPREX survey was the general view that alliance efforts in the future won’t be a return to past practices or models, but more likely new forms of global cooperation, collaboration and partnership with independent firms “on the ground” in key markets, operating with the benefits of shared talent, technology and best practices. 

Jim Walsh echoed this sentiment. “In 2020 liaising with our colleagues in China and Italy who were several months ahead of where we were in terms of lockdown was very helpful to understand from them the communication implications of what we were about to face into. During the year we also had the opportunity to cooperate with IPREX partners in managing client activities and in sharing enquiries for PR programmes outside Ireland.”

Ann-Marie O’Sullivan also stressed the importance of such alliances. “The support of our IPREX partner network during 2020 was very important. Sharing industry knowledge recently led us to partner with a peer agency in the US on a media relations project for an Irish client. And the weekly COVID calls provided an opportunity to share and learn from different experiences around the world.” 

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