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Mike Maynard, Napier Partnership - It's all a matter of metrics

Specialist agencies have the in-depth market knowledge to deliver the results clients want.

Agencies can no longer hide from the need to deliver results that impact on the commercial success of clients.

Those that specialise in particular industries lead the way in linking campaigns to business goals, from the initial concepts and planning, right through to delivery and measurement.

As the internet has caused media and marketing channels to fragment, great agencies have realised that they must supplement world-class PR skills with relevant industry-specific knowledge and expertise.

It is not surprising that specialists are able to do this: by focusing on an industry, the agency gains a deep insight into the market, the technologies and the competitive landscape over several years.

Living and breathing a market for a long period of time is the only way to truly understand the issues and opportunities in a particular sector.

An agency that can educate a client - as well as learn from them - moves from being a supplier to a true partner. In these circumstances the agency must be as focused as the client for the partnership to succeed.

But specialism gives you much more than this. Every market has its own language, needs and subtleties: understanding the backdrop against which clients operate is crucial if an agency is to have the insight that will drive great campaigns.

Specialist agencies are particularly able to deliver commercial impact. Their focus gives them the insight to ensure they select the strategies and tactics that are most effective in driving their clients' reputation and top line revenue.

Creativity also benefits from specialism. Agencies that focus on particular markets are more able to generate creative ideas that are relevant, believable and effective. They live and breathe the market, allowing them to communicate as effectively as a native and ensure their clients stand out in a competitive crowd.

Effective campaigns are built and refined around hard facts. Specialists have the market knowledge to interpret market data and to gain even deeper insight through research.

By focusing on the b2b technology market, Napier frequently delivers bespoke research that provides valuable insight for all our clients. Our research practice has addressed everything from customer media preferences through to bespoke research studies to help clients define new products.

PR is one of the few industries that has failed to recognise the true benefits of specialism. It's all 'just engineering'. But software engineers write code, civil engineers build bridges and mechanical engineers design gearboxes.

If you had a heart problem, you would not want a brain surgeon to operate, even though it is all 'just medicine'. The medical and engineering professions understand that specialism gives the insight you need to produce great work, yet too often people in our industry think of it as 'just PR'.

The tough economy should be seen as good news by specialist agencies. Clients are forced to demand that performance is measured against hard, commercial metrics and that agencies deliver a tangible return on their fees. Specialist agencies have the deep insight that will enable them to enhance their clients' reputation, grow their top line and increase market share.

This demonstrable value will ensure that despite the gloomy global economy, specialist agencies and their clients will continue to thrive.

VIEWS IN BRIEF

- What is the biggest challenge in producing PR campaigns in your sector?

It is the same as in most PR sectors: finding a way to identify the return on investment. We have developed our own PR planning process that starts with the client's high level business goals and builds campaigns from business objectives. It is much easier to measure the return in commercial terms.

- Tell us about the most successful partnership you have set up to support a piece of activity

We have an outstanding partnership with a company of specialist programmers that allows us to deliver innovative, leading-edge websites.

Mike Maynard is managing director of Napier Partnership.

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