Edelman has started restoring full staff salaries and hiring in growth areas after a challenging period of global redundancies.
Chief executive Richard Edelman described the COVID-19 period as akin to a coffee cup where business dramatically declined, bottomed out and went flat, before recently starting to climb again.
In June, Edelman revealed it was cutting close to 400 employees worldwide (about seven per cent of its workforce) and senior staff would take pay cuts to shore up a business that was reporting a net loss due to the pandemic.
Speaking at the PRCA’s National Conference, Edelman said that in September the consultancy had begun restoring full pay to half of the employees who took salary cuts, with the rest of their pay to be restored in October.
“We are making hires again in fast-growing areas such as financial PR and healthcare,” he revealed.
“We're starting to see a bit of rise… [and] are towards the other side now. [It’s fair to] say the spring was no fun, but now we got through it.
“I'm deeply grateful to my colleagues for being able to work at home and suffering through it and accepting the pay cuts.”
Edelman said strong internal and stakeholder communications and “good intellectual property”, such as its COVID and racism trust barometers, helped the business get through the challenging period and provide valuable advice to clients.
In terms of which areas of its services Edelman is now prioritising, he added: “Healthcare, tech, financial relations – that’s action-driven brand work. Also we've just launched something called CommsTech, where we're doing b2b work with clients like Mitsubishi Aircraft. We're much more data-driven, and that will be the future of Edelman; the foundation of our work will be insights.”
PR 'always appropriate'
Edelman believes PR is in a strong position to take more budget from other marcomms channels, particularly at a time when businesses are reluctant to advertise against COVID stories and other controversial issues.
“The smart PR agencies recognised that we should be pointing out the contributions that our clients were making to solving COVID or dealing with systemic racism,” he said. "In fact, [communications] is always appropriate, because we're part of the news cycle, as opposed to being part of the block relationship [of advertising].
“If we can capitalise on that kind of change in work product, then we are going to make a shift in client spend.”
He continued: “We need to approach clients with ideas and not wait for them to come to us. And we also need to push them to do things, because just standing there and describing is not good enough anymore. We have to make sure they understand the necessity of action.”
Earlier in the presentation, Edelman explained how the global communications firm has shifted its focus to “action communications”.