Before we figure out our future first we need to look at our past.Definition of PR – the relationship between an organisation and its publics. Engagement
We were not created as a profession of press release writersPrint media, then broadcast, were influential channels.But media relations was not, is not, public relations.
Nor are we just communicators.We can’t settle for a future of communicating. We have to be part of decision making.“Polluting the river” analogy – Paul Holmes
The future of the PR agency… where science meets art.
Lines between communications disciplines will continue to blur – look at Cannes this year. No more PR or advertising, but instead just communications. As these continue to blur, what will these agencies be called?
Insights and analytics will be a core discipline
At Weber Shandwick, our SABRE award winning initiative does just that – combining science with art. A new type of consumer research.Our ground breaking brand health foot-printing tool was developed in conjunction with world-renowned experts from the field of Neuroscience, Psychology and Anthropology. It maps out the key drivers of Engagement and measures brands against this. Simply put, the Science of Engagement helps clients to navigate the engagement battleground brilliantly.
Knowledge of technology as well as compelling communications
Digital and mobile centric - any other channel will be marginal.In the future our clients will be people who have digital and social ingrained in them and will be pushing a different agenda.44% of Fortune 100 companies don’t have a mobile content strategy.In recent industry publications, Marketing had 11 full pages of digital and social media content in comparison to PR Week who dedicated only a small handful of full and half pages to the topic.
Need creativity and ideas at the heart, not the side lines.Helping clients to stand out in a crowded communications environment.Ideas always were and always will be at the core.(at WS we have been recognised for our ideas with the recent acquisition of “the most awarded UK agency in Cannes Lions”)
We can’t get away from the fact that we are still about the news and setting the news agenda.
Communications will be even more real-time than now, and we are the best placed discipline to meet that challenge.With reputation management becoming an important asset for businesses, real-time PR will become even more valuable.Good examples of this include the Margaret Thatcher Marmite jars when she died and the Oreo Superbowl blackout.
Integrated communications will be a reality, not an aspiration.
Putting the “PR” in “purpose”.Not just commercial, but sustainability and societal issues.With the rise of clients putting these issues higher on their agendas, PR must respond to this.
Consultative and strategy side of our business will become more valuable and expensive, with senior consultants offering consultancy on all aspects of communications.This work won’t be charged by the hour but rather will be based on the value to clients of communications efficiencies and delivery of effective best-in-class service.
Agencies can provide an informed outside view – in house you can get bogged down, lose perspective2. Agencies can draw on best practice from a wide range of client, sectors, cultures and geographies3. Agencies are talent pools, clients can access a greater concentration of varied brains that they can’t afford to assemble on their own
Agencies allow us flexibility – in house teams are a “cost”, we can use you and drop you as demand and budgets vary.Agencies have broader intelligence networks we can draw on.Agencies have to innovate or die – in house there is less innovative imperative
Content has changed. It is diverse and so should be the way that we get it to the audience.
Media operations is fast becoming a management priority. “Over 90% of marketers believe that content marketing will become more important over the next 12 months” Therefore, a newsroom approach is required to fulfil new age PR and marketing. A further example is the editorial production overhaul at Forbes, now 1,000 contributors strong, repositions a legacy media brand as an information network that also happens to publish a magazine.
An example of implementing this at Weber Shandwick is MediaCo, allowing brands to make this a reality.MediaCo is our specialised digital unit enabling clients to build and operate an agile, sustained publishing model. MediaCoworks with brands to transform them into fully-fledged publishers, addressing unfulfilled interest niches in media and filling them with their own editorial products.
SEO : supporting our clients’ wider SEO efforts by using online PR to help their websites to rank in search and attract search traffic; and secondly, to ensure that any content we create is discoverable by the right people and that we’re helping clients to own the conversation and news agenda. Creating timely, shareable and relevant content for our clients. The challenge we have is to understand our clients’ long-term search goals better, and we can tackle this by educating our clients and up-skilling our people. Good SEO importance example: When the Superbowl had a blackout, Oreo reacted super-fast to this event that everyone was talking about. Tweeting a picture and the slogan “you can still dunk in the dark” that both showcased their brand and their product but was relevant to the superbowl event was a genius reaction. At last count the tweet was retweeted over 15,000 times. This social media frenzy resulted in oreo’s website becoming a much more popular, trustworthy site and its ranking for keywords on Google rapidly increased.Media Buying : Media buying ensures that clients are having their content displayed in the right places, being seen by the right audiences. Analytics: For a PR agency, being able to provide analytical insight for clients allows them to see what is going on for their company digitally, and with their competitors.
CreativityJohn Mescall, Dumb Ways To Die – could a PR firm have produced this campaign? “No. They don’t hire the type of people who think up these ideas. They hire people that activate, that expand on this type of thinking.”Putting creativity at the heart and not treating it as an accounting issue.
But our future is not solely in our hands.Convincingmarketeers and the C suite.
2 futures for PR agenciesVendors/suppliers and client think partnersWhich do you want to lead?
ConclusionThe agency of the future will be truly digital-centricThe agency of the future will be a “studio” not an “office”The agency of the future will marry “science” and “art”, technology with storytellingThe agency of the future will combine “purpose” with communications flair
The agency of the future will be channel neutralThe agency of the future will centre on creativity, insights, ideas and connected intelligence.The agency of the future will be more diverse culturally and in skillset and experience.
The agency of the future will combine strategic vision and creative excellence with stunning execution
The agency of the future has a big future – if we get it right.If we don’t, some other discipline will.
The PR Agency of the Future, by Colin Byrne MPRCA, EMEA CEO, Weber Shandwick
“It‟s the beginning
of a new age”
Media relations was not,
is not, public relations...
Nor are we just