The Firm Voice: Post-Inaugural PR: What to Expect in Politics and the PR Agency Business in 2009

Many assumed a “wait and see” stance these past few weeks as uncertainty continued to drive the markets and outlook for the PR firm business and beyond. Yet that holding pattern may shake out as businesses get a clearer bead on the future, precipitated in part by yesterday’s inauguration finally signaling a shift from promising to practicing change.

So what exactly does the future hold for the agency business under an Obama administration? What lessons can we—as a profession and as individual practitioners—learn from President Obama’s communications strategies, techniques and tactics? Where will policy and PR intersect in the year ahead—and what does it all mean to you and your day-to-day work?

For the answers, we checked with Mark Penn, whose domain is the nexus between PR and politics. Worldwide CEO of Burson-Marsteller and president of market research, polling and consulting firm Penn, Schoen and Berland, he has advised both Clintons, Tony Blair and Bill Gates. In 2007, he authored “Microtrends: The Small Forces behind Tomorrow’s Big Changes,” the paperback edition of which will be published in spring. Precipitating its release is Penn’s new “Microtrends” column, which runs regularly in the “Media and Marketing” section of and focuses on demographic trends in society, business and politics.

Here, Penn—who has been called the “Master of the Message” by Time magazine and the “Guru of Small Things” by The New York Times—gives us a sneak peak of his trend-spotting talents to help you navigate the months ahead, and shares his post-inaugural analysis of the new administration, its key communications challenges, and the year ahead for Corporate America and its agency partners.