What impact will Brexit have on the PR industry? The only rational answer, surely, is that it is too early to tell – not least because Article 50 was only triggered a couple of months ago, and we have many more months of fraught negotiations before the decree nisi is finally signed.
But our industry, largely though not universally Europhile, is naturally consumed with the biggest issue in its short history, and anxious about the consequences of this step into the unknown. At Hartigan we’ve seen very little change in recruitment patterns (if anything, we’ve seen more demand in the 11 months since the momentous Brexit vote), but this is not necessarily a reliable indicator of the future.
Yes, there is uncertainty about our future trading relationship with Europe and the rest of the world, where so much of our business comes from, and where so many PR firms have subsidiary offices and partner agencies.
Yes, there will naturally be difficulties, especially if the UK walks away from the final deal offered by the EU and our services are regulated under WTO rules, as the Prime Minister has repeatedly threatened. Even if we avoid the ‘nuclear option’, it will take years to secure a trade deal, while there will be no shortage of upheaval over matters such as clients, EU employees, and European offices.
But we believe there are many good reasons to be sanguine about PR’s prospects in a post-Brexit future.
First of all, let’s not forget that PR is one of the industries in which the UK truly leads the world. In no other country (except, perhaps, the United States) is public relations such a mature sector. The expertise, the experience and the culture of the UK PR industry isn’t going to vanish overnight, and it’s hard to see demand for our skills lessen after Britain quits the EU. Public relations is still a fledgling industry in most EU countries, leaving our agencies in a very strong position to continue winning business throughout the continent and beyond.
Then there’s the UK’s unique role as bridge between the US and Europe. While this may take a hit after Brexit, our position as interlocutor and translator between our American cousins and European neighbours is simply too unique, too valuable to be bypassed.
And, whisper it quietly, what about a potential Brexit windfall? In times of great change, businesses will have new communications challenges: as they seek to remain competitive in an increasingly challenging economy, for example, or look to open up fresh opportunities in new markets around the world. Bill Gates famously said that if he were down to his last dollar, he’d spend it on PR; in uncertain times, good communications can provide a vital competitive edge.
So whatever your personal feelings about the rights or wrongs of Brexit, there is every reason to be (cautiously) optimistic about the future.
And remember, at Hartigan we speak to the UK’s biggest and smallest agencies, and everyone in between, every day. With our finger constantly on the pulse of the PR industry, we’ll let you be the first to know of new opportunities that Brexit could bring to your career.