In your opinion, is PR evolving into a more direct competitor with advertising agencies, and if so, why?
The ongoing digital transformation is blurring the lines between communications disciplines. The transformation is the cause of a longstanding shift in PR from traditional media relations towards an integrated marketing approach – what we at Edelman call "communications marketing."
This provides our clients with the best of both disciplines, combining the storytelling of communications with the analytical rigor of marketing. It’s not only Edelman and PR firms that are evolving; the entire communication and marketing industry is adapting to the changing media landscape, including advertising agencies.
PR firms have also always brought together talent with a solid mix of skills and from various backgrounds to help solve their clients’ business challenges. While some people like myself are now joining PR firms with advertising and digital backgrounds, it does not mean PR firms are trying to simply mimic advertising or digital agencies.
I believe the most open minded creative agencies today are trying to emulate PR firms, instead of the other way around.
Is there a greater emphasis on creativity in PR than ever before, rather than more traditional comms services?
Creativity in PR is nothing new. It has always been at the heart of PR and will always be what makes the difference, especially in a crowded and fragmented media environment.
The key difference in today’s digital world is that visual storytelling is increasingly important to reach audiences whereas PR was traditionally about the power of the written or spoken word. To adapt to the changing media landscape, we now apply creativity in ways that will help our clients’ brands earn the attention and relevance of their audiences using the channels available.
Are PR agencies best equipped to drive innovative and engaging campaigns for clients in the digital space? What are the latest creative demands from clients when it comes to digital work?
Between a television commercial and a press release, a new range of channels and media exist for brands and companies to communicate with an audience to build and earn their trust. The classic model of advertising agencies leading all communications efforts, centered on a single big idea and primarily delivered through paid channels, is challenged for good reason.
Because of PR’s heritage in earned storytelling, PR firms have an advantage in assisting their clients produce relevant and authentic content in the social age and make the most of opportunities offered by digital platforms, serving as newsrooms in their own right. This includes written and visual content, video, experiential and ideas with the value of PR at its core.
An evolved PR firm is perfectly capable of and well situated to facilitate meaningful conversations between companies and their target audiences. However, I am observing many PR firms who view this approach as an add-on to their existing way of operating rather than shifting their thinking and structure. I joined Edelman because at every level of the company globally, the firm is embracing the change and adapting our approach with speed and at scale.
How do you see the creative side of PR developing in the next 5 years?
Technology is impacting every business, especially the communications industry. As data becomes increasingly rich and new tools are created, it enables creatives to meaningfully reach wider yet even more targeted audiences. At the same time, the pure concept of creativity has not changed.
While there are new ways to amplify stories and connection with audiences, technology will never save a bad idea. Telling a great story built on a creative idea will help companies earn the attention of their audience and cut through the noise. This has been and will remain the case for years to come.
At the end of the day, strong storytelling will always earn the attention of audiences.