PR 3.0: Changing agencies in a changing business world

When the global economy took a turn for the worse, many C-level executives decreased their investments in PR, marketing, and advertising.

When the global economy took a turn for the worse, many C-level executives decreased their investments in PR, marketing, and advertising. But while budgets shrunk, demand for successful campaigns and measurable ROI certainly didn't.

Today, we're seeing companies that once employed a multitude of “specialty” agencies consolidating to one or two that possess integrated strategic capabilities. So what type of agency has taken the lead – marketing, advertising, PR, or another specialty altogether? While each discipline can claim a place in a competitive marketplace, it seems clear that the PR industry has the advantage.

As companies come to realize they can no longer communicate differently market-by-market or channel-by-channel and must instead engage constituencies with one message of shared value and vision, our industry – with our deep understanding of multi-stakeholder engagement – continues to strengthen its position as a strategic business function. Executives across all management disciplines increasingly call on PR practitioners for high-level counsel, often from individuals – former government relations officials, heads of internal and external communications, chief marketing officers, lawyers and financial executives, and many such others – who have often sat in the same seats and at the same tables in their own careers.

As the marketplace shifts, and as needs have changed, PR has taken on a differentiated and increasingly central role. We are expected to lead integrated efforts to speak with one voice across disciplines, geographies, and cultures. This sense of integration is not just about what we do as PR professionals – it's also a reflection of the way the world is operating. To be successful in this interdependent world, and to more effectively help companies navigate all levels of influencers – from customers and employees to investors and policy-makers – PR offices and departments that may once have operated individually are merging into a cohesive web of expertise and international resources in order to stay competitive in a fast-moving global marketplace.  

Client goals and opportunities have also been transformed in this changing environment. Stakeholders expect more from companies today. It's not enough to sell a successful product or service; companies must also produce goods in an ethical and environmentally friendly way, treat their employees and communities fairly, and govern themselves well. CEOs are increasingly demanding a cohesive approach to building sustainable relationships with stakeholders who access multiple mediums and wear many hats. Short-term and isolated campaigns are being replaced with wide-scale and ongoing movement-marketing efforts that resonate emotionally with consumers and tackle social needs. PR practitioners must educate executives on new approaches to stakeholder engagement and empower companies to build champion brands. By helping organizations match corporate actions with corporate values, we're ultimately expanding the value proposition for our industry.

And as the lines of earned, owned, and borrowed media continue to blur across a digital platform, we've seen how media convergence presents new opportunities and challenges to launching lasting campaigns that inspire audiences to action and tap into the passions that companies and stakeholders share.

It's clear that the PR profession has emerged to a state of great influence at the nexus of business, politics, and technology. We have the power to create significant movements if we continue to embrace change and stay ahead of the curve. As we enter PR 3.0, we have the opportunity to do incredible things across endless boundaries if we listen, anticipate, and engage in this new landscape. I believe the best is yet to come.

Margery Kraus is founder and CEO of APCO Worldwide, which recently purchased a majority interest in award-winning movement-advertising agency StrawberryFrog.

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