David Hargreaves

Reflections on the reinvention of the PR industry

In Search Of The Missing Pieces

I am sure I am not the only person who runs a PR agency who spends many waking hours thinking about how their business needs to evolve to reflect the changing communications landscape. The challenge is how to evolve while operating in a climate where agencies have to deliver more for less for their clients and while investment in new skills has been limited by virtue of slower growth or even a shrinking business over the past 12 months.Missing Pieces

The good news is that there is certainly no shortage of opportunities to pursue, the difficult bit is working out what are the specific skills and capabilities an agency needs to overlay on top of all the services a traditional agency would deliver. I saw a recent post from Todd Defren  where he was asking a very similar question.

His question was asking “what you would do differently if you were setting up an agency from scratch today.”  As I gear up for my new role within the Next Fifteen Group, I am going through this very process right now and have been giving it a lot of thought. That being said, I am coming at this from a slightly different perspective, in that we are looking develop a consultancy that provides complementary (not competing) services to Next Fifteen’s existing PR brands: Lexis, Text 100, Outcast, Bite, MBooth and 463.

I think it is sometimes easy to jump straight into thinking about the specific services that a progressive communications group needs to deliver rather than thinking about what are the broader drivers among our clients (and indeed our clients’ audiences) which require the evolution of our services. I won’t pretend I have captured them all here but I think there are three key drivers that I consider the most important:

  1. Organisational change: As the digital landscape changes, companies are struggling to understand how the different digital channels should be leveraged across not just the marketing function but every single function in an organization.
  2. Data Explosion: PR has never been know for being particularly scientific or being driven by data. The free availability of data and the ability to capture and analyse data demands that we leverage data much more heavily in our quest to influence an audience
  3. Rich Digital Content Is King: Stating the obvious, but communications is now highly visual and as such is centered around ‘social objects’ which can be everything from a video to a game or widget.

One thing I do know is that for traditional PR agencies, the  media is as important as ever not least because of the power of digital channels in propagating this content. On top of that, the core skill of building relationships with key influencers will continue to be a prized asset of great PR agencies.

We won’t be launching our new consultancy until later in the year but in the meantime we have the exciting challenge of working with our sister companies and our clients to determine where we put our initial focus.

Filed under: Communications, Events & Announcements, Marketing, North America, Social Media

The Data Imperative: Will PR Win or Lose the Battle for Data?



It was interesting to see some of the latest findings in a study entitled 2009 Digital Readiness Report, released by iPressroom. It highlights the fact that PR is ‘leading the social media revolution inside an organization’ which is great to hear. It was also interesting to note that PR lags marketing in just two disciplines: email marketing and SEO, but leads in the disciplines of blogging, social networking, social search and micro-blogging. There is a great post on Jason Falls blog discussing the report in more detail.

I am clearly biased but I am passionate about the fact that the discipline of PR, which is routed in influence, should be the rightful owner of social media. In so doing, we can transform PR into a discipline that cuts across all departments within the organization.

However, if we are to succeed, I think there is one big obstacle we need to overcome – how we use data. If you look at the two disciplines where the PR profession is lagging marketing they are the two areas which are also driven by data. If we are to succeed it is imperative that we become masters of data and how we use data to drive campaigns.

There are lots of great companies out there which are helping to provide the industry with the tools we need to put data at the center of what we do. (I particularly liked BuddyMedia who I met last week in New York).

Yesterday I had another reminder. The ad agency of one of our clients made a grab for a part of the tactical execution of the Facebook component of a campaign. The rationale, according to them, was that they hold all the data analytics for the web site so “it makes sense.” The great skill we have as PR professionals is that we understand how to create and drive content that influences and engages people. However, that will only take us so far unless we show how we then turn that engagement into paying customers.

We are making good headway as an industry but the battle over data is still far from won. 


*Also posted on Bitemarks

Filed under: Communications, Marketing, North America, Public Relations, Social Media, Technology, Trends, Web Analytics, , , , , , , ,



June 2018
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