Spain has suffered more than many countries from the economic downturn of recent years. After 16 years of growth its economy shrank by 3.7% in 2009, and then by 0.2% in 2010, making it the last major economy to emerge from the global recession. This was primarily due to a collapse in the construction sector, plummeting property prices and the resulting fall in consumer spending.
The unemployment rate hit 20% in 2010. While this has hit the Spanish media hard, with one agency director reporting that there are over 6,000 unemployed journalists, the PR industry has remained relatively insulated. There are two main reasons for this: the need to rebuild trust in corporates, and the need to start using social media.
“It is not new for Spanish people to mistrust governments, companies and banks,” says Rhona Martin, marketing director of sugar company Azucarera. “We have seen so many false promises and corruption both on a national and an international level. But since 15th Sept 2008 doing what you say and saying what you mean has become more important than ever. This has had an effect on how companies and brands have approached PR over the last few years.”
In parallel with this renewed desire to strengthen corporate reputations is the growth of more digital techniques to do this.
“Companies, civil servants and politicians are all suddenly experimenting with ways to use social media for communications strategy,” says Juan Llovet, head of corporate & internal communications at industrial conglomerate Gestamp-Gonvarri. “It’s a growth area and one where PR professionals are increasingly involved.”
On top of this, Spanish PR professionals have access to the rest of the Spanish speaking world, and the Latin American market is one of the fastest growing in the world. The end result is that the Spanish PR industry is thriving. A 2010 study by the Spanish PR industry body Asociación de Directivos de Comunicación (Dircom), showed that nine out of ten companies have a communication department, and 75% of them are at the highest executive level.
Gabriela Warren, PR & community manager at Fon, adds: “Whereas before PR was seen as the department that organised parties and drinks receptions, Spanish companies are finally starting to realise just how important a well thought-out communication strategy is. Whilst in the US and the UK this happened many years ago, in Spain this is a fairly new development.”