Lessons to be learned from GolinHarris' new agency model

GolinHarris' new G4 agency model for the future has garnered widespread publicity.

GolinHarris' new G4 agency model for the future has garnered widespread publicity. Last week, more than 200 professionals, educators, and students joined a webinar led by Golin's president and CEO Fred Cook. During the webinar, which was sponsored by The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations at the University of Alabama, he explained the process of developing the new agency approach.

Cook said the forward-looking firm was designed to function in a rapidly evolving digital and social media world and provide clients with a seamless package of strategy, creativity, and engagement solutions. The agency structure eliminates traditional job titles and segments employees into four groups: strategists, creators, connectors, and catalysts. It also includes a state-of-the-art multimedia room, The Bridge, where employees monitor social and traditional media in real time for clients.

PR students and educators at the webinar asked a number of questions about implications for education programs and workplace preparation. Cook claimed to be no expert on education, but here are three key points he made in response to the queries:

1. Writing is still the foundation skill. Cook said there's a crucial need for excellent writers on all fronts, but especially for individuals who can craft compelling brand stories for clients. This is some of the important work in the new creator and catalyst groups in GolinHarris. At the same time, the demand for digital and social media skills continues to soar.

2. The agency will still hire people with a traditional PR education. Cook emphasized that Golin always seeks to hire the most outstanding candidates. A particular degree is part of the equation, but so are the skills, qualities, and experiences individuals bring to the job. He underscored the intense competition for entry-level jobs by noting that his agency's office in Chicago drew more than 800 applications for 12 internship positions this summer.

3. Colleges and universities, like agencies, need to stay close to the marketplace and what's happening. Cook said one way to do this is to interact regularly with alumni and invite professionals to campus to meet and talk with students.

Bruce Berger, Ph.D. is Reese Phifer Professor of Advertising and Public Relations at the University of Alabama and a member of the board of The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations. Previously he was VP of PR at Whirlpool Corporation. His column focuses on PR students, young professionals, and education. He can be reached at berger@apr.ua.edu.

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