In the past five years, much has been made of the need for agencies in the PR industry to change and reinvent themselves.
Some have even cited the death of PR. An equal amount has been made of the need for the media to change, with many predicting the death of print.
In parallel, commentators have spoken of the death of the advertising industry, with some heralding digital agencies as the future.
None of this carries much weight for me, furthermore the hype and panic is unhelpful and much of the noise generated has too often been self-serving.
Across all these industries, the only constant is change.
So what is the answer?
The reality is there will be no single solution for any of the industries whether PR, advertising, digital, direct or media.
Every sector is facing the early stages of their biggest evolution since their inception, which to be fair, has not been that long.
I feel privileged to be allowed to spend time with some of the most awarded businesses across all agency disciplines; in most cases to observe and then advise on what changes need to take place.
As an agency owner, an office head or CEO it would be easy to start to lose sleep over the need to keep pace with this constant change.
I tell PR agencies to stop looking backwards at outdated challengers; the threat from advertising is an old debate.
Facing up to their own challenges, the advertising giants have regrouped, morphed and reshaped their own offers, putting the brand experience at the centre of the offer or building products and service that can be resold to their client base.
There is no user manual to help re-architect the future direction of the PR agency landscape, but some simple steps, I believe, will help the industry continue to thrive.
My six pillars of change:
1. Agency organisational structures must evolve to support the engagement era
From new skills, disciplines and practices the traditional ‘top heavy’ agency management structure is now defunct.
2. A shift in client buying behaviour, away from retained to project fees
Consider how your teams are geared up to best respond to this change, how this impacts billing and staffing demands.
3. There is a need to adopt a more selfless approach to programme delivery
Be the agency that brands turn to first for consultancy and advice but don’t feel compelled to deliver a solution to every request. Provide valued consultancy.
4. Create transparency between expert partner networks
In line with the point above and to support the shift in client buying behaviour, it will become imperative to build out a trusted and expert network of delivery partners.
5. Adopt a phased talent strategy based on a three- to five-year vision – not just for today
While a five-year business strategy is probably futile to map out, knowing the kinds of people and talent you need on your team will be essential.
6. Identify new revenue streams – create a product mentality
Most PR agencies are now measuring revenue splits between traditional media and new media. In the next few years capabilities to offer digital products and services will need to be the new focus.
Gareth Moss is managing director of The Blueprint