David Hargreaves

Reflections on the reinvention of the PR industry

A Temperature Check On The West Coast PR Market

This morning I went along to my first Council of Public Relations Firms meeting in San Francisco which was attended by the principles of some of the big firms here in the Bay Area. Having competed fiercely against Access for a number of clients (and lost more than I would have liked to) it was great to meet Susan Butenhoff for the first time having heard so much about her. Similarly it was great to meet some of the people behind other agencies that I always hear good things about such as LaunchSquad.

Kathy Cripps from the Council of PR Firms gave an interesting presentation sharing some of the data from a recent survey (which I understand is confidential). However, it confirmed what I think we all know: the end of last year and the beginning of this year was horrible, most firms looked at, and in some cases took, fairly drastic measures to reduce costs and clients wanted more for less. (If you haven’t seen this video it is a must – courtesy of Tod Defren’s PRsquared blog, which is where I first saw it ).

There were a couple of other elements of the discussion which struck a chord with me.

First for new business. There were definitely mixed feelings about the current number of leads out there that however there were four things that everyone wanted to get off their chest:

  1. Clients who don’t give some sort of budget as part of the pitch process are just not helping the process
  2. Many clients are selecting from very long “shortlists”
  3. The selection process seems to be getting more and more drawn out for even the smallest accounts
  4. It is just plain rude when, after having spent $$$$ pitching, when the prospect doesn’t even call to tell you the result – trust me, it does happen

In  a bid to help smooth the RFP process, the Council of PR Firms has produced an RFP builder to help clients choose the right agency by following a best practice blueprint – great job!

And now for social media. Anyone who knows me, will know I am passionate about our role in the fast changing communications landscape (I would actual argue that we are almost at the point where the ‘social’ can be taken out of ‘social media’ but that’s another story.) There were three conversations among the group that confirmed my own experiences:

  1. As an industry we need to bring on people who are more visual in their thinking (creatives, TV scriptwriters, designers)
  2. Digital is a huge incremental fee opportunity for us to secure fee from other marketing disciplines and it really is happening
  3. Successful agencies are the ones that will seize the opportunity digital gives us to use data to deliver against marketing metrics (traffic, clicks, purchases, downloads and ultimately customer acquisition costs)

Overall a very useful temperature check and being relatively new to the Bay Area in PR career terms, it was great to meet some of the people who we compete against but until today have never met.

Previously published on BiteMarks.

Filed under: Public Relations, , ,

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