When will consumer PR agencies finally start believing in their potential?

Now is the time for consumer PR agencies to start taking themselves more seriously as strategic brand builders.

No offence, but Charlie Carpenter wants consumer PR to take itself more seriously
No offence, but Charlie Carpenter wants consumer PR to take itself more seriously
Sufficiently insulted? If you’re a PR agency CEO then I understand the reaction. But might it be a case of ‘truth hurts’?

I’m not out to rile anyone. Simply to provoke today’s modern PR agencies into fast realising their (ridiculously vast) potential at a time when there is opportunity like none other in recent history.

I’m talking specifically here about the chance to cement their seat at the mythical marketing ‘top table’, still so often the domain of creative, media and even digital agencies (whatever they are now).

About taking that final stride into the uncharted territory of PR agency as key linchpin in the modern brand builder’s armoury. 

Some will claim this is happening already. And sure, in response to this article there will be the expected platitudes trotted out from across the industry.

About PR working its way up the marketing food chain; about the discipline enjoying a stature on client rosters not previously seen.

But is it? Really? Fast enough? Do PR agencies truly yet command the ear of the CMO in the same way that ‘ad’ agencies still do?

I for one think not. Of course there are the inevitable few trailblazers, but there’s still a vast amount to do. And given the spoils on offer it’s a crying shame that it’s taking so long.

The shift must start with bigger thinking. Bigger ambition. A belief that the time is now…

It’s indisputable that in a digital-everything world the skills of the traditional PR are in greater demand than ever in ‘earning’ the attention of consumers.

It’s uncontested that brands are more commonly crafting successful brand activity with PR and social thinking at the core; amplified by traditional channels, not driven by them.

It’s clear that marketers are now comfortable looking to a whole range of agencies to create their brand ‘content’; that no longer do ‘creative agencies’ have the stranglehold.

It’s even now discernible that many brands have restructured (or are beginning) to align marketing and PR more closely; bringing the latter into sharper focus for CMOs than ever before.

Throw in the fact that exceptional talent from across the wider industry seems increasingly drawn to the world of PR, and all of the above combined can only lead to greater opportunity for PR agencies keen to compete as top dog.
Everywhere you look, rule books are being torn to shreds. It’s all up for grabs now. 

Nowhere is this better illustrated than by Golin’s recent swoop for Brooklyn Brothers. 

Now that’s a bold vision. Right there. A PR agency buying a modern day creative agency (with PR at its heart by the way). Not vice versa. How many of us saw that coming?

It’s the kind of audacious move that can give the industry the confidence and (frankly) the ambition it needs to change things at pace. To shake off the lethargy.

If Golin’s coup doesn’t signal an intention, then I don’t know what does. But how many others have the appetite to follow?

First step: start believing.

Charlie Carpenter is managing director of Creativebrief

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