An agency for a complex, fast-paced, digital world

If I were starting an agency today, I would probably call it a communications agency, not a PR agency. Our overarching goal would be to create communication strategies that help clients achieve business objectives.

If I were starting an agency today, I would probably call it a communications agency, not a PR agency. Our overarching goal would be to create communication strategies that help clients achieve business objectives. It would encompass internal and external, consumer and corporate communications, both online and offline. 

By the way, old notions of "above and below the line" are obsolete on the Web. Communication strategies are media neutral and are revisited regularly; such is the pace of change. We define new metrics quite differently from those in use in the 20th century. And we measure the impact of our work on a daily basis.

The new agency uses the best mix of marketing and communication tools. Work will be supported by data that keeps track of what people like, share, and create; where they work and travel. People belong to several communities and we need to better understand who the real influencers are. I see e-commerce, geo-localization techniques, and mobile devices completely changing the world of retail.

Brands and companies will have to keep up with fast-changing trends and behav- iors. The agency needs to be a strong partner in data analytics.

The new firm would be a "learning company." Our staff would always be trying new, creative ways of interacting with all stakeholders: consumers, staff, investors, institutions, governments, and NGOs. Clients want all disciplines to work seamlessly together. Perhaps the biggest opportunity lies in the fact that they are increasingly discipline neutral - this is a chance for PR to step out of the marketing-mix shadows. Clients want great ideas and impeccable execution. This is true with the emergence of the Gen X CMO: younger, analytically orientated, tech-savvy, and more results driven than before.

We live in a fast-changing world characterized by globalization, real-time news dissemination, increasing complexity, demand for greater transparency, and a growing lack of trust in media, big companies, and institutions. Building or rebuilding trust, managing reputation of brands, companies, and their leaders is where the new agency should excel. I would argue that crisis situations will be the new norm, quiet and peaceful time the exception.

The digital tsunami is forcing traditional media to adapt or die. I spent 15 years managing a news organization and I know it is not going to be easy for them. The survivors will be those media that understand the new dynamics of social media platforms and how empowered individuals create and share content.

We are in the conversation economy: brands need to be part of this conversation. Lasting differentiation and attractiveness is more and more difficult to achieve, but remains the indisputable goal.

The agency would have strong creative capabilities and will apply those in a very integrated way: it will create multi-faceted campaigns, constantly tweaked and adapted to respond in real time to the impact of a diverse range of influencers.

Most importantly, the men and women we hire like to interact with each other across regions, they want to cooperate and know that being territorial is terribly old school. They are internationally minded, speak several languages, and are digital natives who welcome change and diversity.

The agency has a purpose that attracts talent, it promotes values that retain talent and a very clear mission statement: to be our clients' most trusted advisers, and source of value, creativity and engagement in the always-on conversation.

The first office would open in London, as its time zone allows you to work in the morning with Asia and in the evening with the Americas. Expansion would follow in Europe, North America, Latin America, Middle East, and Asia. We have to figure out how to develop our activity in Africa, the next frontier where population is set to double in the next 30 years.

This is the agency we are trying to build at MSLGroup. We believe that a more complex world is a great opportunity. 

Olivier Fleurot is the CEO of MSLGroup, one of the world's top strategic comm- unications networks. Previously, he was executive chairman of Publicis Worldwide.

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