Agency leaders describe the PR firm of 2017

The PR firm of the future will not be focused solely on earned and unpaid media. It will be a diversified firm that employs a variety of vehicles - digital, mobile, virtual reality - to deliver relevant content

Agency leaders describe the PR firm of 2017

On November 14, PRWeek will host The PRWeek Conference – Power to the People. The event, which takes place at The Sentry Centers in New York City, will provide interactive workshops, keynotes, and panel discussions. Several of the sessions (including the one in which I am participating, called “The Battle of Big Ideas”) will address anticipated changes to the PR industry and its agencies.

I posed this question to eight leaders of independent firms – “What is the most important way in which the PR agency of 2017 will be different from the PR agency of today?” Their replies highlighted the direction firms must go to maintain and bolster their relevance.

Ken Eudy, CEO, Capstrat:
The PR firm in 2017 will increasingly help its clients become publishers and broadcasters – “multimedia thought leaders,” so to speak – communicating directly with stakeholders without having their messages filtered through traditional media. Traditional media will attempt to play an agenda-setting role, but that role will be diminished.
Maril MacDonald, CEO, Gagen MacDonald:
The successful firm of 2017 will reinvent itself between now and then. It will be interested in relationships, not transactions. It will think about the client's long-term strategy, not short-term tactics. It will add value through a technology-driven collaborative dialogue that blends the interests of all stakeholders. The agency of tomorrow will have gone beyond being seen as a supplier of communications products to being a valued and indispensable business partner.
Elise Mitchell, president and CEO, Mitchell Communications Group:
The firm of the future will be known as a business strategist with communications expertise. It will offer integrated services that create solutions for clients across the enterprise, leveraging earned, owned, paid, shared, and promoted media in all channels, including digital, social, and mobile – but those channels will have converged long before 2017. Although the world will continue to shrink, there will be greater demand for firms that can help global brands connect with local audiences to build meaningful relationships and drive their businesses forward.
Ed Moed, cofounder and managing partner, Peppercomm:
For starters, we won't be called “PR firms” anymore. PR as we know it will be gone. Those who can only focus on traditional services such as media relations and speaking platforms will fade into the sunset. Instead, agencies in 2017 will be much more strategic and offer a wide array of communications and marketing services mostly focused around helping clients to engage more effectively with their key audiences. Messages will be put in motion through content development. Understanding traditional, digital, and social landscapes will be critical, as will leveraging a variety of disciplines and specialties to help clients tell their stories more effectively.
Jennifer Prosek, CEO, Prosek Partners:
Practitioners in 2017 will have to think across the marketing mix and successfully drive marketing campaigns versus simply owning the traditional earned-media channels. Firms will need to articulate the value of results that engage audiences versus simply offering impressions. The best firm will also be built on a model that offers staff a dynamic career track that is more entrepreneurial, mixing exposure to the craft with engagement in the business.
Tony Signore, CEO, Taylor:
The needs and expectations of client partners for best-in-class strategic counsel, creativity, and thought leadership from their agencies will continue to multiply as the various marketing communications disciplines become increasingly diversified and competitive. The PR firm of 2017 must define – or even redefine – its vision entirely in terms of what will create irreplaceable value for client partners. Providing value at this level is not only the key to establishing lasting partnerships, but also creates a desire among ideal prospects to partner with this organization.
Janet Tyler, Co-CEO, Airfoil:
The agency of the future will lay a foundation for alleviating the pressures that clients are currently feeling about an ever-increasing change rate in communications. Multidisciplinary expertise will be the firm's leading competitive asset. To fulfill the marketplace requirement for agility, businesses will demand that the agency of the future integrate marcomms strategies with complementary disciplines – such as branding, analytics, and digital – to speed up responsiveness and capture transient audiences.
Jim Weiss, CEO, W2O:
The PR firm of the future will not be focused solely on earned/unpaid media. It will be a diversified agency that employs a variety of vehicles – digital, mobile, virtual reality – to deliver relevant content informed by predictive and behavioral data analytics to more precisely target customers, constituents, and stakeholders and influence a desired action or decision. It will deploy a strategic mix of paid, earned, owned, and shared media that can be monitored and measured directly in real time.

I hope you can join me at The PRWeek Conference on November 14. In "The Battle of Big Idea," thought leaders from Google, Cigna, and AOL will join me in making presentations about the “big idea” and the PR firm of the future. I will discuss “The Five ‘I's” that will, in my opinion, be the hallmarks of the successful agency of tomorrow: Ideation, Innovation, Imagination, Integration, and Implementation. Should you have any doubt about this, just take notice of the large number of PR firms rebranding themselves in the last few months. These efforts, and others, demonstrate that the future is now.

Michael Lasky is a senior partner at the law firm of Davis & Gilbert LLP, where he heads the PR practice group and co-chairs the litigation department. He can be reached at

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