Want to be a Public Relations Survivor? Be Prepared to Change, Constantly

As we enter 2013, the transformation in the world of communications that is driven by the mass adoption of social media and mobile devices is accelerating.

Fish-changesThe public relations industry is not immune from the impact of these changes. And this has disrupted the competitive marketplace.

Over the past year, I found my company, Thornley Fallis, repeatedly competing for assignments against non-traditional competitors. Ad agencies invading our turf. Digital boutiques. Marketing agencies. Management consultants.

An increasing proportion of the assignments we won from clients incorporated digital communications as a core element. Throughout 2012, we saw the budgets for these assignments shift away from traditional public relations activities to digital. The budgets didn’t shrink. The allocations against digital activities increased.

In a world like this, if you want to be a Public Relations Survivor, you must be willing to reinvent yourself constantly. That’s what the most successful firms in the communications marketplace are doing. And that’s what we’re doing at my firm.

And here’s the indicator that drives this home. Today, only about half of Thornley Fallis’ revenues are from what would have been considered traditional public relations services. The other half? Video production, public engagement, content marketing, design and development.

You’ve probably noticed the absence of social media from that list. Where’s social? Integrated across everything we do. What was hot a few years ago has become simply the common entry fee.

What’s hot now? Content marketing. The creation of social objects that people will connect around. Understanding and building public engagement. Making connections with people who care about our products and services and the things we care about.

We see ourselves as much different from the public relations practitioners of old. We don’t define our horizons within the constraints of earned media. Most of our programs include paid keyword advertising to seed awareness among those most likely to be interested. As the  traditional media distribution deteriorated, we realized that placing great content and counting on organic search simply wasn’t good enough. So we moved into the territory of the advertising agencies. Not as advocates of advertising first, but as advocates of a true integrated solution in which each medium has a role to play.

Yes, we are still a PR agency. But when people ask me what we do, I answer in a way that is much different from the answer I provided a few years ago. Today, we “provide insight, create remarkable experiences and connect people to the things they care about.”

And that’s how we make  sure that we are Public Relations Survivors. Not by clinging to the past, but by evolving with the changing communications environment.

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If you found this post interesting, these sources provide even more to think about:

PR Agencies’ Lost Year by Peter Himler

10 Things I’ve Learned from an Advertising Agency by Ed Lee

When the Corporate Social Strategist Role Goes Away by Jeremiah Owyang

 

 

 

 

 

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