Danny Rogers: PR must get ready for a comms revolution

Will PR consultancy ever be talked about in the same revered tones as McKinsey or Bain once were?

Danny Rogers

This has always been the Holy Grail for ambitious comms practitioners, but according to Weber Shandwick chief executive Harris Diamond, it is no longer just wishful thinking.

Diamond, the long-term global boss of WS based in New York, told me this week he had ‘never been so excited about the future of the profession', despite the lingering global recession. His enthusiasm is contagious.

Perhaps this is because the comms business across the pond is often years ahead of our own thinking.

Yes, the UK PR sector can be more dynamic, creative and vibrant on a day-to-day basis, but the longer-term trends often emerge first in the US.

On both sides of the Atlantic, we are seeing PR move up the marketing food chain to a point where both private and public sector clients no longer see much distinction between the various disciplines.

Instead, what they rightly demand is top quality comms with their various stakeholders, regardless of its source of inspiration.

Diamond believes both the Italian-suited ad executives and the Ivy League consultants have ‘walked away' from the challenge of truly driving reputation in the new era of dialogue.

What are the implications of this? Well, it should mean that PR consultancies are changing their structures, recruitment policies and skills development strategies.

We will see a breakdown in the distinction between corporate PR, investor relations and public affairs; an influx of senior professionals into the industry from disciplines outside the traditional media sphere; and much heavier investment in training and staff retention.

Of course, this will push up the cost base of many consultancies, but those ahead of the curve will soon reap lucrative benefits from such investment. Many already are.

Thanks to the credit crunch and seismic political changes in recent years, the macro climate around us is gradually transforming. The PR industry must ready itself for a revolution of similar dimensions.

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