The times are a-changin'

So said Bob Dylan several decades ago. The context was different, to be sure, but his words could be an anthem for the public relations business today.

“The Times They Are A-changin'.” So said Bob Dylan several decades ago. The context was different, to be sure, but his words could be an anthem for the PR business today. The times—and everything—are changing, and fast. The question is, are we bold enough to change with them?

If you missed the news, our agency two weeks ago announced a major restructuring to help our clients win in an ever more complex, connected society. Agencies—and PR generally—have reaped big rewards from the revolution in media over the past several years. But are we currently structured and organized to maximize those changes? Are we truly bringing clients everything they need? Are we helping them stay ahead of the curve?

After a year of careful and thoughtful planning, we've blown up the traditional agency model and replaced it with something new. We're moving away from a structure designed around a hierarchy of generalists—where everyone is expected to be good at everything—to one that embraces and develops specialized expertise. In our new model, clients will be served by integrated teams of dedicated experts who will deliver what they've told us they want most: Actionable insights, bold ideas, multimedia engagement, and flawless, integrated execution. Four communities of specialists—Strategists, Creators, Connectors, and Catalysts—will work together seamlessly to apply specific and deep expertise to our clients.

This move is exciting and it's risky. It will take work and time to get it right. Of course, not everyone is comfortable with change like this. We've received mostly accolades from clients, colleagues, and media, including PRWeek. But we've received a few pot shots, too, from (mostly nameless) critics.

You can't please all of the people all of the time. If we tried, it would mean watering down our approach; we settled for something safe. And that would be guaranteed to fail. Instead we listened to Al Golin, who has always said “fix it before it breaks.” We're completely redesigning our agency in a way that we believe makes sense, and will make a difference.

Ellen Ryan Mardiks is vice chairman at GolinHarris.

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