The PR agency that is successful today is far different from the PR agency of just 20 or 30 years ago. Technology and the needs of public figures have changed the landscape so much that the tricks of yesteryear simply will not work today.
The mid sized PR agency is a special case. This is the agency that has a secure future ahead of it but perhaps no big or breakthrough clients. This agency will face a great deal of pressure from the new and shrinking industry of marketing. The losers will be pushed out of the advertising business altogether. The winners will divide the rest of the market and grow because of the decreased competition.
Here are just a few of the reasons that mid sized PR agencies need to change their strategies in order to survive and thrive.
Social media has created a direct line from the personality to the audience…
Media personalities no longer have to compete in the mainstream audience in order to be successful. Entertainment and other industries that rely on PR are more segmented than ever. The difference today is that the people who are looking for niche service can find it very easily. This means that the personalities who are looking for that specific audience do not need a PR firm in order to find it.
Authenticity is extremely important in the niche communities, and many of the personalities in these markets actually fare better when they take the PR polish off of their marketing campaigns. The PR agency’s true value added to a personality like this is technical advice – teaching the personality how to use tools such as SEO, SMM and PPC campaigns in order to increase ROI. Aside from advising a personality on the technical aspects of creating a bigger audience or a more engaged audience, a PR firm can only truly help in perfecting the image that the personality has already created.
Automation in the online marketing world has created less need for a large team…
In previous generations of PR, you needed a separate human at the helm for just about every sub-discipline. You need a person to call venues. You need another person with other talents to work out payments. You need another person with different connections to find the right photographer and other suppliers. This is simply not the case today.
Personalities are able to easily automate the above processes on a laptop, creating less of a need for a big team. Not only that, but a smaller team means that a personality does not have to give up as much of the profits from appearances and other business. Why would any personality go backwards from this?
If a PR agency morphed into a marketing consultation firm instead of trying to relive the 70s, then they would be able to help personalities in a much more effective way. PR firms do not need to focus on providing specialized service for each nuance of a personality’s needs. The focus should be on streamlining and handling things in a more efficient way. Some personalities, especially those who are talent based, would much prefer to spend time working on their craft. The PR firm that will find success with these people will be able to perform the above duties in a streamlined way that raises the ROI of the entire operation without creating new costs for the personality.
PR is much less important than marketing in today’s market…
As stated before, public relations is almost a single person discipline in the nuanced world of today. This is especially true if you are dealing with mid level clients who are not necessarily concerned with crossing over into an audience that does not correspond with his or her core audience. What is more important is the ability to lower the cost per unit of the audience that is already engaged with the personality.
It is also very important to understand the difference between PR and marketing. PR is much more concerned with the look and the feel of the personality. Marketing is the discipline that comes into play once the PR has been completed satisfactorily. In the modern era of personalities, most of the PR is handled by the personality himself.
Any firm that is looking to build and maintain a clientele in today’s fiercely independent landscape of personalities should pivot more to marketing. PR is no longer the bloated cash cow that it once was. Now that everyone has access to the same resources, the personalities that are most effective are the ones who have a good marketing team behind them.
The soft disciplines of PR must give way to the more technically oriented disciplines of marketing along with a focus on streamlined service that sticks the first time.
Erika Kauffman is the General Manager and Partner of New York based PR Firm 5WPR.