The question of what the future holds for PR agencies has been debated for some time. During my career on the corporate side of things and managing global agencies across Asia Pacific, EMEA and the US for the last 8 years of my life, I’ve learned a lot, especially when it comes to what the PR firms should do to remain relevant in this market. PR firms must learn to evolve, be ahead of the emerging trends and technologies and apply all of those areas to deliver value to the client.
With the introduction of social media, corporate blogging, and online communities, channels of conversation and information distribution are much broader today beyond the scope of just press releases and targeted media pitches. Upon noticing the change in the landscape, I looked to my PR firms for expertise in these areas. Why? Because I believe that PR agencies can be very effective in helping us (the client) be successful in terms of coverage, thought leadership, brand and innovation. Speaking from personal experience, working with a PR firm that is not innovative and lacks broad knowledge in these areas can be very frustrating. I know. I’ve been there. Agencies that are slow to adopt the emerging trends can become “irrelevant” very quickly. I always say the agency should know more about these cutting edge tools that are being introduced to the corporate arena more so than the client so they’re not playing catchup.
When social media started gaining ground, I asked my PR firm how we can better utilize these tools to help elevate our profile within the online community and drive the conversation. When they couldn’t come up with a good answer and struggled to get us the right feedback, I started to think… “hmm, maybe this isn’t the right agency for us.”
What agencies need to understand is PR is no longer a siloed function but an integral part within the organization. Looking at PR as a way to get coverage is just one part. Finding ways to gain coverage by integrating key components such as corporate blog, social media tools such as YouTube, Twitter, SlideShare, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. will get more mileage than simply applying the art of media outreach to your targeted audience.
For example, at Lumension, we set up a new corporate blog called the Optimal Security Blog, launched our YouTube Channel, and Twitter. We leveraged our PR firm Lois Paul and Partners to develop and execute on our strategy.
Needless to say, LPP was the winning agency that essentially won over our account. They got it. They knew the change was coming and they understood what the best practices were for launching these to drive success. It’s not about simply understanding the importance of these emerging tools, it’s about knowing how to best utilize these tools and apply them effectively. It’s about sifting through all the noise and finding the right tools that can really work for the client. PR must be an integral part of the marketing function – leveraging PR for all aspects of marketing can get you very far. Ask how you can have monthly calls with your client’s key marketing folks to understand campaigns they are running, whitepapers they’re writing, bylined articles, etc. This way, you have visibility into what the company is working on for lead gen, thought leadership, etc. and tie that into your PR planning. Also, have regular brainstorming sessions with your key spokespeople and get into their brains. Who knows…you’ll get some great blog topics or thought leadership ideas out of it.
Proactive PR – don’t be reactive when clients come to you for advice on social media, online communities, etc. Assess your firm’s talent and find experts within these areas to always be on the cutting edge of these evolving trends and technologies and how this impacts the clients.
Monthly Social Media Share of Voice Checkup – Do a monthly checkpoint on all the social media tools to see how the client’s SOV is resonating such as Twitter mentions, blogline mentions, Google Search, etc.
Checkpoint – do quarterly planning on the latest and greatest social media tools that can help impact PR and marketing and assess if the current strategy is working through measurement of coverage and Share of Voice. Get a better understanding of how the integration of these tools are impacting marketing’s lead gen, website traffic, etc.
Education – The agency should push the “client” to look at the latest and greatest social media tools and find ways to integrate across their efforts.
Levearge your resources – find out from your contact who would be best for specific brainstorming sessions and hold them regularly and share your feedback on what you’re hearing in the market – they can most likely help dispel or confirm trends, etc. And, hold regular meetings with your client’s key marketing folks. You could learn a lot. this is most effective if you don’t have an in-house PR/comms person who doesn’t provide that.
Tell me what you think and if you agree.