PR firms need to keep pace with the fast-changing economic and media environment by hiring a variety of talents, grounding strategy and recommendations in analytics and research, measuring results, and adjusting those strategies.
These are ongoing drivers in working with clients to build their business as proactive partners, not reactive vendors. By staying nimble and adaptable, firms can stay ahead of what promises to be a perpetually changing media, economic, and business landscape for years to come.
The formula to create success amidst great change is pretty basic and simple: hire the best people, work with the best clients, and do great work. The key is to expand and diversify what you can do yourself as a professional and in turn for your clients, whether you work in an agency or in-house. The goal is to become a trusted, invaluable partner building relationships and business together over a very long time, and stay able to adapt along the way.
The biggest challenges for many professional services firms, particularly for PR agencies, are size, structure, and their own success - or at least how they and investors have defined success in the past. They have done really well, but may now be finding it hard to shift their models because that requires a lot of investment, causes a lot of disruption and pain, and often creates some chaos that may not be worth it in their or their investors' eyes. This is particularly the case when they have been growing predictably and steadily and need to please Wall Street every quarter by delivering double-digit margins.
Since the model has worked for many firms over time, even in difficult economic climates, it's hard to make a case to change. But firms that invest in the best people and thought leaders, as well as technology, so they can truly innovate in partnership with their clients will do well in what is clearly a new economy like we have never seen before.
I believe that PR firms have done this much more than any other type of firm in the marketing and corporate mix, providing strategy and execution and increasingly winning integrated business from their colleagues in related fields. This profession has always been an inherently hungry, nimble one with much more to prove. My view is that it has never been a better time for the industry, at least those in it who are willing and able to adapt.
Jim Weiss is CEO of WCG.