Today's Conversation Age requires a new agency model

Having recently attended the Council of PR Firms Critical Issues Forum, the CMO Summit, and PRWeek's NEXT Conference, the takeaway is that digital and social media have created an always-on world with conversation at its core.

Having recently attended the Council of PR Firms Critical Issues Forum, the CMO Summit, and PRWeek's NEXT Conference, the takeaway is that digital and social media have created an always-on world with conversation at its core.

Marc Pritchard, global marketing and brand building officer at P&G, said it best: "PR is the key for all marketers looking to build meaningful relationships with consumers. When integrated effectively, those relationships turn consumers into customers and customers into brand ambassadors." PR firms have the opportunity to be lead agency in such integration efforts.

Conversations happen every second. In an always-on world, on-going engagement is at the heart of building strong brands and shaping reputations. Still, the Conversation Age and storytelling require judgment, authenticity, and credibility. A real-time response can make the difference between avoiding risk and building positive long-lasting relationships: that is what PR has always done best.

Agencies must be trusted advisers and boundless in creativity and thinking. They must understand value creation, financial stewardship, and ROI, but also return on engagement - understanding data is the key to driving value. And they must be always-on.

PR should take the lead among marketing disciplines. To do so, however, we must be master storytellers for the Conversation Age.

This means setting the stakes and having a clear view of desired outcomes and a keen grasp of what creates relevancy and authentic conversation. It means generating great ideas and content that can be executed flawlessly and quickly across geographies and media (earned, paid, and owned). It means harnessing technology and platforms, engaging communities and influencers that can become advocates and evangelists, and providing theater and packaging.

As our industry evolves and user-generated content continues to be king, the conversation economy requires a new agency model.

Ad and digital agencies see this and are entering our world by trying to sell PR ideas and services, but they lack the understanding and tools. PR has always been built on relationships, not pushing.

In this Conversation Age, there is room for a new kind of agency: creative storytellers that embody the authenticity, credibility, and engagement of PR with always-on digital/social media and the theater and packaging of advertising.

The C-suite and marketing world recognizes this need and our role in it: PR needs to have the courage and skill to raise our game and take the lead. 


Jim Tsokanos is president of the Americas at MSLGroup.

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