Lord Bell: Comms must be complementary

Let me say at the beginning I agree completely with Lord Chadlington's wise and perceptive column last week. The forward strategy must be growth alongside cost-control.

Lord Bell
Lord Bell

The recession has hit expenditure, budgets and jobs, but it has also masked structural change in our industry brought about by new technology and the greater importance attributed to communications.

We will not return to the indulgence of the past few years, business life will become more thrift-conscious and trust will be at a premium.

The advances of the past few years, powered by the internet and the mobile phone, will continue and become more prevalent. The switch from deference to reference, empowered customers, event-driven marketing rather than mass communication and a much greater focus on results will all continue.

However, it is ideas that change behaviour, action and society, and we must focus on the benefits of new ways of communicating ideas. The internet is a global medium; search is a powerful marketing tool; the internet conversation is a new phenomenon. We must learn how to join it and guide it for our clients, through great ideas that capture the imagination and inspire the relationships between clients and their customers.

Integration is the new buzz word, but it is not about lowest common denominators: it is about being channel neutral, it is about ensuring the whole is stronger than the sum of the parts.

For the PR industry, it is not about the old battle for a share of advertising dollars, but how to work collectively, with all the other disciplines, to a common strategy so that wherever the message appears, it contributes to the overall reputation objectives. Everything must be complementary, not contradictory. There also looms an obsession with new compliance procedures and new regulation across the world, an inevitable but wrong reaction to a collapse of trust.

So as the old order changes here, in the US, in international relationships and in our own industry, life has never been more challenging.

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