PRWeek's inaugural Agency Excellence Survey, conducted by Millward Brown, reveals that consumers of PR services want more creativity, collaboration, and ROI from their firms. The survey also asked clients what particular attributes motivate their decisions to hire agencies.
Analysis of the data revealed that the attributes that clients want, but agencies are not consistently delivering, are creativity, collaboration with in-house teams and other agencies, and measurable ROI.
The data offers firms information that might prove useful as they strive to differentiate themselves from their competitors.
This information is presented in a chart that is featured in the Agency Excellence Survey in the middle of the magazine.
"The intention of this analysis is to identify the variables that are important or that an individual might not realize are relevant," explained Ann Green, SVP of marketing solutions at Millward Brown. She added that attributes like high-quality work, high-quality staff, and responsiveness are critical to clients as well, but they are more or less required if an agency is going to be a major competitor in the PR space.
True differentiation for PR agency brands requires more than being great at the basics, as industry leaders know. In fact, one of the bottom-scoring attributes for many firms was, "offers something truly different from their competitors."
"Differentiation is an enormous challenge," agreed Lou Capozzi, CEO of MS&L. "We are striving to make our clients and each other think differently about PR first, to expect higher outcomes. Then we have to work to help them understand that [our firm] is uniquely able to deliver on that difference."
Measurable ROI has been a topic of much industry discussion, as clients seek to prove the value of their investments in PR services. Greater collaboration is also something that agencies have been working toward, both internally and externally.
But the need for creativity might have been somewhat underestimated during the last few lean years.
"I do think creativity is one of the high must-haves for clients," said Helen Ostrowski, CEO of Porter Novelli. "But it goes hand in hand with understanding the client's business."
The survey also asked respondents to identify what firm they would hire in a crisis, for a product review or launch, or for financial/IR issues. Fleishman-Hillard was the most often mentioned in the first two categories, while Kekst & Co. topped the list for financial work.
To see the report in PDF form, click here.