PR firms still have work to do to build their own reputations

If you play devil's advocate and peer into the future, it is possible to paint a scenario where prospects don't look so rosy for PR.

Anyone who reads PRWeek regularly knows PR is on the upswing and the demand for smart communications advice, social media counsel, and content generation is booming.

But if you play devil's advocate and peer into the future, it is possible to paint a scenario where prospects don't look so rosy.

It's all about the perception of PR firms and the services they own. Let's assume investor relations sits under the remit of the CFO, not the CCO. Regulation, legal, and compliance are handled by general counsel. And internal communications is overseen by HR.

Then what if marketing takes control of social media, which is where the vast amount of communications growth is going to come? The CCO will end up ostracized in the backwaters of media relations.

The doubters further note that CCOs don't have much money to play with. This is why one of the main worries at PR agencies is that they will end up in a tactical and technical role, rather than a strategic one.

Marketing will control Facebook, Twitter, and publishing platforms. The winners on the agency side will be those who have the strongest relationship with the CMO because that's where the money resides. And that's where the advertising and media agencies come in, as they have the strongest relationships, don't they? And they are circling their wagons ready to muscle in on PR's territory, aren't they?

Well, up to a point. PRWeek looked into the matter for a feature in this issue and found it's not quite as clear cut. Ad agencies and integrated shops are certainly positioning themselves to provide PR-like services, though there are still relatively few real examples. And ad agencies such as Wieden + Kennedy are quick to point out they have no desire to usurp PR agencies, although it would be naïve to think they are not gunning for at least a slice of the PR pie.

Either way it is crucial for PR agencies to get on the radar of CMOs and demonstrate they can do far more than send out press releases and manage an event. They must not allow themselves to be perceived by CMOs purely as a port of last resort. 

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