What does an organization do when faced with the most challenging business environment in decades? Under the current economic microscope, some may choose to magnify the warts. The Council of Public Relations Firms prefers to focus on the innovations, developments, and events that demonstrate the contribution of the industry and the rationale for more strategic involvement by PR agencies in important local, national, and global issues.
Earlier this month the Council hosted "The Innovation Forum: Innovations for the New Realities of Business." The event brought together agency, client, and industry experts to explore and share ideas for business building, adding value to client relationships, and agency leadership.
Creativity and thinking differently about business solutions were messages delivered by the Innovation Forum's keynote speaker, Joey Reiman, founder of consulting firm BrightHouse and a keen observer of marketing trends.
"The ability to create better ideas than the competition is the only sustainable competitive advantage a company can have, and the only way that company will have a future," said Reiman.
The BrightHouse 4-I process - investigation, incubation, illumination, and illustration - starts with deep quantitative and qualitative research, and emphasizes the importance of allowing the seed of an idea to develop slowly so it can mature and become the basis of an effective campaign.
Reiman's presentation was a testimony to the power and potential of PR. He believes we're on the cusp of an era where PR, not advertising, will drive the marketing strategies of most companies. He suggests that our creativity, strategic thinking, and fearlessness will stimulate this rise.
Three panels addressed innovation from the perspective of business development opportunities:
1. Innovative Approaches to Clients' Changing Needs. By leveraging a core competency to generate new revenue streams, some firms are realizing impressive growth opportunities. Firms have created significant differentiation from competitors by cultivating experience so specialized that it has allowed them to pursue and win business from clients that previously weren't on their radar. As new research by firms like RRC Research measure the intangible assets that constitute a company's corporate reputation - such as competitiveness, innovation, CEO leadership abilities, ethics, etc. - opportunities are being created for PR firms to improve the standing of these companies.
2. Innovative Partnerships. Approaching business partnerships from a new direction or perspective can make the difference between a short-term engagement and a long, prosperous relationship. In this panel, a valued client emphasized the importance of shared accountability, heart, and a bit of irreverence with his firm - all key contributors to a strong client-agency relationship. Wirthlin Worldwide, a leading research firm, demonstrated how a research project with clearly defined and measurable objectives can elevate a publicity campaign to award-winning heights.
3. Innovative Internal Processes. This panel featured firms that are regularly voted among the best places to work in the industry. The offerings these firms have implemented are basic, but strategically linked to the firm's culture. Innovation at the employee level, designed to stimulate productivity and creativity, is often demonstrated in the firm's ability to be more reactive to client needs.
Events like the Innovation Forum reflect the Council's commitment to helping its members create processes that add value and empower their organization to better meet emerging market needs. These challenging times require more innovation and focus than ever. Furthermore, by instilling an innovative philosophy in their culture, PR firms will be on the forefront of strategic problem-solving.
Edward Moed is cofounder and managing partner of Peppercom, and a member of the Council of Public Relations Firms.
For information about the Council, its members, or the Innovation Forum, please visit www.prfirms.org or call toll-free 877-PRFIRMS (877-773-4767).
- This column is contributed and paid for by The Council of PR Firms.