Spain Gains World Attention as Public Relations Comes of Age: '92 Events and EC Status Attract New International Partners

By Josephs, Ray; Josephs, Juanita W. | Public Relations Journal, May 1992 | Go to article overview

Spain Gains World Attention as Public Relations Comes of Age: '92 Events and EC Status Attract New International Partners


Josephs, Ray, Josephs, Juanita W., Public Relations Journal


'92 Events And EC Status Attract New International Partners

International events and celebrations taking place in Spain this year are providing the country with increased visibility as a cornerstone of the southern tier of the expanding European Community. International linkages are also a key part of the growing Spanish public relations industry, which has come of age in response to these events as well as recent economic and political changes.

Hosting Expo '92, the international, 100-country business exposition, the 1992 summer Olympic Games, and serving as the current European Cultural Capital - as well as celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Columbus "Age of Discovery"journey from Spain to the New World means that Spain is very much in the news in 1992.

The country is developing sophistication in public relations, with growth in consultancies accompanied by an increase in staff positions within organizations. Spain's practice shows increasing use of modem and innovative public relations methods. Fees and professional standards are rising. A new generation of professionals is being groomed. And linkages are being formed with U.S. and European firms (see box on facing Page).

The major events of 1992 have all focused European and global attention on Spain (see box, page 22). "These events have heightened the interest of many European companies in Spain as a market for products, as well as a producer of goods and services;' said Alfredo Frafle of Agencia "A", which has offices in Madrid and Barcelona. "Many of Spain's leading companies are expanding their markets into other areas of Europe. These international business links mean that public relations activities in Spain will reflect the professions activities elsewhere In addition, Spanish organizations must focus their public relations efforts in other countries where Spanish interests lie.

These reporters spent the month of January researching public relations activities in Spain. Thirty-five interviews were conducted in Barcelona, Seville and Madrid with the heads of Spain's largest firms, as well as some representative smaller firms. The firms included U.S. and U.K. leaders which hold a prominent position in the Spanish market, independent organizations, and a number of specialized consultants whose work can best be described as closer to that of Washington, DC, or state lobbyists.

The exact size of the public relations practice in Spain is unclear, but every sign demonstrates a very extensive growth, particularly since the mid-'80s. Virtually all firms reported fee volume up 10% to 20% or more in 1991, and some expected to do even better this year.

This is in contrast to earlier periods, when the annual growth ran from 25% to 30%. This growth was largely due to the profession's relatively small base after a stable Socialist government was elected in 1982. Earlier, during the days of Dictator Francisco Franco, practicing public relations in Spain was arguably something of a contradiction, with practitioners faced with tremendous problems in getting coverage for private sector companies.

The high growth rate has slowed despite the number of events taking place in Spain this year. Ironically, many consultancies did not want to get too involved in these events other than serving participating clients, according to those interviewed. They felt the up-tick in business would be followed by a letdown.

U.S. multinationals prominent

Nearly half of Spain's public relations firms are located in Madrid, which is by far the largest European capital city, followed by perhaps one-quarter in Barcelona, in the up-and-coming, thriving and often fiercely independent area known as Cataluna, according to Jestis Ulled of Ulled & Associates in Barcelona. There are relatively few firms elsewhere in the country, added Ulled, who is a national leader in the profession.

Almost all the large U. …

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