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The PR Review of 2022: with Warren Johnson on the PRmoment Podcast

Welcome to the PRmoment Podcast.

Today we’re reviewing 2022 from the perspective of a PR agency with Warren Johnson, founder of W Communications.

W has a fee income of £13m, offices in London New York and Singapore, Edinburgh, Kuala Lumpa, Los Angeles. It employs approximately 160 people globally and 126 in London.

If Year in Review Podcasts are your type of thing then do have a listen to our Year in Communications show with Charlotte West, executive director of global corporate communications at Lenovo.

Before we start the PRmoment Awards 2023 early entry deadline is on 16th December, check out the awards site for all the details. If you miss the early deadline the final deadline for The PRmoment Awards is January 27th.

Thanks to the PRmoment Podcast sponsors, The PRCA.

Here’s a summary of what Warren and I discussed:

2 mins Despite what’s been a pretty tough year for most - PR firms had a pretty decent 2022 didn’t they?

3 mins Have there

“H1 and H2 felt quite different!”

“(In H1) there were quite a few spurious pitches, second half we’ve opted not to pitch”

“I’m a cheerleader for the industry. There are some really smart people who work really hard (in PR)...and I don’t think you can say that about some of the adjacent marketing services industries.”

5 mins Has PR's moment arrived?

“Advertising is pretty shit now”

“Best idea wins. That suits everyone, including most importantly the client.”

“Taylor Herring’s Peter Crouch campaign was a content piece that just got bigger and bigger”

8 mins Has the dial moved in PR’s market share of the CMO's budget?

9 mins Warren talks us through the different phases of 2022 for PR agencies

“At the beginning of the year there were lots of pitches and not many of them went anywhere.”

“Q1 next year could be quite challenging…but hopefully a rosy summer!”

“It looks like the government’s done a half-decent job in terms of controlling inflation”

11 mins When will the agency financial map of 2023 start to unfold - when do you know when it’s going to be a good one or a bad one?

12.30 mins Are PR firms increasingly starting to compete against in-house teams?

13.30 mins How hot is the PR labour market at the moment?

“There was clearly a moment of madness where we had some average people being hocked around the industry by recruiters…I’m sure we all made some bad hires at that point out of desperation. I think now things have settled down. It feels like there is equilibrium.”

“There has been some mega wage inflation…we’ve now had time to calibrate that.”

“Our wage bill is £500-600K a month, if that jumps 20% - no more Christmas party!”

“We’ve had to have some difficult conversations with clients”

21 mins How is the cost of living crisis impacting PR employees?

22 mins Warren on Frankie Cory: “We’ve admired each other from afar.”

“I saw her as a kindred spirit…who will hustle as hard as I will”

Ben Smith: “So it’s tag team to grow W?”
Warren Johnson: “Yes”

26 mins Are the independents still having a good time or are the holding groups biting back?

“We are taking money off the holding group but not often the PR division”

“What COVID has done has got everyone to stay in their lane a bit more…we do less corporate than before by design.”

29.30 mins Have we seen more of a shift back to specialist agencies, away from generalist one-stop shops?

“The proliferation of specialist agencies has allowed clients to understand how to pick and choose and get the best out of (agencies)”

“The day of the big procurement pitch has gone very quiet”

31 mins Over the last 5 years W has been building its international offer, what has gone well and what has gone less well?

“There’s always a temptation to fly out your brightest and best - who fancy some time in the sun, and that’s to be avoided.”

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