Conventional wisdom in the communications industry is that PR networks provide independent agencies opportunities for peer relationships, knowledge sharing, best practices, and more reach.
While true, today's networks are not only aspiring to be more, they are building competitive advantage, providing brands with great options for innovative communication, PR, and social and digital media solutions. The landscape for independent firms is changing. Competition is greater and the drive to maintain and grow business is as important as ever. And winning independents are focused on their value proposition and demonstrating ROI for clients.
As networks tap their partners to solve geographic, industry, and subject-matter challenges for existing clients, it is proactive collaboration and customization that are getting the C-suite's attention.
For example, Donoghue & Associates, a Worldcom partner based in Calgary, Alberta, had a mining client with operations in the US, Brazil, Chile, and Russia that wanted their international operations to receive crisis media and communications training.
Donoghue & Associates delivered these programs in English in North America and engaged Worldcom partners Planin in Brazil and YA Corp. in Russia and had our Mexico partner find a firm in Chile to deliver our firm's training programs at the client's operations in their respective countries.
Each partner translated our materials and adjusted the training style and content to adapt to their linguistic, cultural, political, and societal norms. Independent agency partnerships can offer many benefits:
Subject-matter experts. These provide expertise to fulfill a situational client need. You know the client, but they have a special circumstance that another partner may have experience addressing. In networks, independent firms can identify subject-matter experts and use them to solve the challenge.
MorganMyers, a Worldcom partner based in Wisconsin has a US food company client that wanted better information on animal welfare and consumer consumption trends coming from the European Union.
A call was made to Worldcom partner Wisse Kommunikatie from the Netherlands to help provide the necessary context. Wisse arranged in-country visits for Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Denmark related to various aspects of animal agriculture. Expert sources included EU economists, retailers, and even an on-farm visit. Wisse also lent a hand for some of the logistics required to get five visitors through four countries in six days.
“The quality of the tour and the caliber of the sources put together by Wisse were noted by our client and our internal agency team,” says Tim Oliver, MorganMyers president.
Time and cost efficiencies. Imagine a client is expanding globally. An agency is serving them in one geographical area and the brand wants to expand agency services.
Through a network, the lead firm is able to save the brand from exhaustive agency searches. This firm can introduce a network partner, bring them up to speed, and provide the client with efficient counsel and services, while saving time and money.
New business. Agencies are able to custom design teams to provide solutions for brands with top talent, strategic experience, leadership, and geographic coverage. If a pitch needs healthcare, public affairs, traditional PR, or social media expertise, a network can quickly identify and develop the ideal team across the partnership. Or a brand can approach a network and invite them to submit a recommended solution.
As a result, independent agencies within global networks are creating practice groups that allow for broader team-based solutions. Some require agencies to adhere to specific standards and milestone reviews. This ensures the partnership reflects a consistent level of quality and expertise. In turn, clients receive the highest standards of service.
Based on service continuity, and benchmarked standards, many PR agency networks are competing with multinationals. The collaborative spirit allows them to tailor talented teams and industry leading solutions for brands – giving existing and potential partners local advantage worldwide.
Todd Lynch is MD of Worldcom Public Relations Group.