Jury is out on lobbying in 2019 - but agency bosses look on the bright side

Written by David Singleton on 21 January 2019 in News

Mark Glover, Iain Anderson and Alex Deane are more optimistic than some lobbyists.

Senior lobbyists are divided over whether 2019 will be a good or bad year for themselves and the wider public affairs industry.

A survey of 132 members of the PRCA public affairs board found less than a third believing that things can only get better. Only 32 per cent felt that 2018 had made them more optimistic for their own organisation – and 26 per cent said they were less optimistic. The remaining 42 per cent said their optimism remained unchanged.

Asked the same question about the wider public affairs industry, 33 per cent said they felt more optimistic, 15 per cent felt less optimistic and 52 per cent said their optimism remained unchanged.

The PRCA public affairs board was similarly split over whether they expected their clients’ or employers’ public affairs budgets to go up or down in 2019. While 31 per cent anticipated an increase, some 29 per cent were set for a decrease. A further 41 per cent anticipated that budgets would stay the same.

Despite the mixed messages, PRCA public affairs board chair Paul Bristow tried to sound upbeat. The Tory lobbyist said: “2019 looks to be a complex and shifting year for our industry and politics more broadly. Despite the obvious uncertainty, public affairs practitioners are confident about their futures, and about the future of the industry in which they work.”

Other lobbying agency bosses approached by PAN insisted that they were looking on the bright side. Newington Communications boss Mark Glover: “Clarity on the outcome of the Brexit negotiations will be welcomed by business. The lack of clarity is delaying legislation and greater uncertainty is bad for business, which in the short term may have some knock on impact on budgets available for the public affairs sector. 

“Our belief is that public affairs business will improve as the year goes on and the political direction of the country (hopefully) becomes clearer.” 

Cicero Group chairman Iain Anderson said: “2019 continues as 2018 ended – its another year of massive change and opportunity. Consultants that embrace that change will do well those that don’t – won’t. More of the sector is therefore ripe for consolidation. I’m continuing to run the Cicero ‘slide rule’ over the best opportunities out there.”

FTI Consulting head of public affairs Alex Deane was even more bullish about the state of the public affairs world in the age of Brexit. “If you can’t make money in political advisory services in the current environment, consider your career choices,” said the committed Brexiteer.

“It’s an amazing time for our industry and any firm not seeing that in concrete results should closely evaluate their PA offer.”



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