PRWeek turns 15: Looking ahead

Communications leaders predict what a PR firm will look like in 15 years.

What will a PR firm look like in 15 years?

Gail Heimann
President, Weber Shandwick
The PR agency of 2028 won't be so much an agency as a think tank – more specifically an engagement tank, powered by real-time data and rigged to create and respond precisely and rapidly.

Having weathered decades of big data and bigger ideas, the engagement organization of the 2020s will be built around a network of small clusters of highly specialized experts – each tech enabled with mobile devices and wearable tech and deeply connected to the leading influencers in their specialty area.

Micro-creative – conceived and developed within the specialized clusters – will be the cornerstone of engagement. Content will be developed and live streamed to individuals, communities, and regions at the minute it is most wanted and via a recipient's preferred platform.  

Clients will forge deep, long-term partnerships with the engagement organizations of 2028, co-creating and co-owning large volumes of content.

These evolved PR organizations will meet the need for true global activation and team flexibility by operating 24 hours a day, enabling people to work at whatever set of hours suits the needs of their clients and their own lifestyles.

Teddy Goff
Cofounder and partner, Precision
The agency of the future will spend a lot less time managing crises and reputations and more time helping clients understand what consumers actually want from products to services to marketing campaigns, and helping them do a better job on substance, not just perception. And we will all have four weeks' vacation and nap pods at the office.

Sean Garrett
Cofounder and partner, Pramana Collective
The agencies of the future will be a place for senior strategists or for the young and digitally immersed. Some agencies will feel like management consultancies and will guide companies through challenges and opportunities in an execution-agnostic way.

Others will be execution-focused and create and contextualize media content in mind-bendingly fast ways. Today's layer of agency middle management won't exist.

Patrick Sandusky
Chief communications and public affairs officer, US Olympic Committee
A PR firm in the future is smaller in the number of people under one roof at a traditional office and larger in the number of affiliated contractors working from cities around the globe who are ready to quickly descend onto a client or issue and bring immediate local advice and solutions to a particular task or problem.

Donna Imperato
CEO, Cohn & Wolfe
All of the marketing disciplines will come together to create a new kind of communications agency. We might not even call it PR anymore. 

But we'll still be doing what we've always done best: creating and sharing compelling stories about brands. We'll just be doing it in a more fully integrated fashion – across a blend of paid, owned, and earned channels. And who can even imagine what those channels will be in 15 years? Facebook hasn't even been around for 10.

Dan Tarman
EVP and global head of marketing communications, Pimco
As a more integrated approach to managing brand and reputation, PR agencies need to adapt their perspectives, skill sets, and agility to deliver and manage content across channels and platforms. It is not prudent for communications channels to live in silos, as that approach is contradictory to how our key stakeholders behave and does not serve our objectives of managing perceptions and driving narrative.

Renee Wilson
President, North America, MSLGroup
With content creation becoming more of the centerpiece of PR, we've already seen the growing need for diversity in creative talent inside PR firms.

This will usher in a golden age of agency creativity that will be more strategic and smarter than in the past. New tech, innovation, and data analysis will trigger explosive growth of a more sophisticated business and human intelligence capability to drive decision-making.

Kim Hunter
President and CEO, Lagrant Communications
It is paramount that the PR industry takes the lead on integration – fusing advertising, marketing, and PR. Marketing communications, media planning and buying, and social and digital, among others, will be the name of the game moving forward. Consolidation is inevitable. There will be fewer agencies and that is best for clients and the industry.

Jeffrey Sharlach
Chairman and CEO, JeffreyGroup
Very few, if any, agencies will want to limit themselves by self-identifying as PR agencies since the range of services we provide will be limitless.

The strategic approach on how to target audiences, develop messages, and influence perception and behavior, will be much more critical than any specific tactics. And I wouldn't be surprised to see PRWeek take a look at modifying its own brand name between now and its 20th anniversary.

Maggie FitzPatrick
CCO, Johnson & Johnson
The global marketplace is dynamic and evolving and our profession must continue to shift and expand to embrace new demands and possibilities. The agency of the future will be seamlessly connected to clients, compellingly creative, and will curate content to cultivate authentic human connections. The agency of the future will be a master of trust and will use the tools of our trade, data, and insights to help clients succeed responsibly for broad social benefit.

Mark Gambill
CMO, Vocus
Tomorrow's CMO will be driven by data and technology, and be required to answer the ROI question with much more granularity. There will be much higher expectations around triangulating paid, owned, and earned media, and having integrated solutions at the ready. PR agencies must be prepared to expand offerings to support the evolved CMO.

Karen van Bergen
CEO, Porter Novelli
The PR agency in 15 years will no longer separate out social media and online outreach; those services will be fully integrated. PR agencies will be firmly in the lead on many integrated campaigns, in recognition of the fact that they own the space of dialogue and real, relevant, content-driven engagement with target audiences. Agencies will employ different nationalities in key offices, as the world and clients will have only become more global.

Bryan Specht
President, Olson Engage
Creative for creativity's sake will be dead and agencies will have to be obsessive about delivering measurable business impact across a highly integrated international marketplace. All agencies will be global in their approach, but not necessarily their presence. This will be necessary because markets will be truly global, defined by values and world view, not geography and demographics.

Barby Siegel
CEO, Zeno Group
No longer will the PR agency be filled with PR people, per se. Rather the agency will bring together people from all walks of life and human experience who contribute to the creation of powerful content that will inspire action – script writers, novelists, documentarians, psychologists, media planners, graphic designers, digital strategists, pop-culture gurus, moms, dads, industry and sector-specific experts, entrepreneurs, visionaries, and more. 

Sarah Amos
Chief creative officer, Freshwire
As online and mobile platforms proliferate at an ever-faster pace, agencies will need to become content-creation experts and master new technology to keep up with the way we communicate digitally. An agency's success at rising above the noise to capture consumers' attention in an "always-on, always-connected" world will depend on their ability to craft digestible and authentic content, delivered in the right way, at the right time.

Richard Edelman
President and CEO, Edelman
PR firms will resemble modern newsrooms of today with desktop access to stream news whether social or mainstream, operating 24/7 with cross-border abilities in language and culture in the key centers of New York, London, Beijing, and Singapore.

Jim Weiss
CEO and chairman, W2O Group
The democratization of media and data storage and applications has changed how everyone in the world receives, processes, and transmits information. Customers are more empowered and new channels demand new expertise in how to share and tell a story. These same factors have not only affected the media business, including advertising and PR, but how everyone does and will do business in the future.

David Reiseman
VP of communications, Gold's Gym
The PR agency of the future won't be a PR firm at all. It will be a communications firm that bridges what is now considered public relations, advertising, digital, and traditional marketing. As we all know, the lines continue to blur more and more between the disciplines and smart agencies are adjusting their business models to reflect the changes brought on by this transformative business and media environment.

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