Loretta Tobin, Grayling: Using the power of now

Dynamic PR consultancies should sync short and long-term strategies for best results.

I am a massive fan of trendwatching.com. The 'Happy Spotters' it has recruited from more than 170 countries across the world provide real-time global trends, and the site really does top up your inspiration quota. It makes me wonder whether we have got it right in our PR consultancies up and down the country. Do we really listen enough? Change has never come at us this fast, and products and services are becoming obsolete at a rate never experienced before.

In its latest Trend Briefing, trendwatching.com describes this new age as 'NOWISM': an era of instant gratification where clients, consumers and media alike are looking (onand offline) for products, services and experiences delivered on demand. Where consumers see the new craze of pop-ups and vending concepts (my favourite being the ballet pumps you can buy in an instant after a late night out in heels), we can see our clients looking for similar fast fixes.

Zygmunt Bauman, professor of sociology at the University of Leeds, invented the term 'liquid modernity' to describe this trend.

According to Bauman, we now have to splice together an unending series of short-term projects that do not add up to the kind of time-honoured schedules we have been used to in the past. It means our lives are becoming more and more fragmented, requiring us to be ever more flexible and adaptable - to be ready and willing to change tactics at short notice, to act, plan actions and calculate the likely gains and losses of acting (or failing to act) under conditions of endemic uncertainty.

For dynamic PR consultancies and brands, ensuring long-term strategic game plans live in sync with NOWISM will reap results: a world of real-time customer service, real-time offers, real-time business intelligence, real-time Q&As, real-time feedback, real-time co-creation. And for those who are not embracing this, the future looks bleak.

For PR companies, there has never been a better time to challenge the status quo. It is time to really do things differently. For the bigger firms among us, change at this level can be hard to impose. For us, the merger of Trimedia, Grayling and Mmd has given us the opportunity to do so, in many ways making it easier for us to throw caution to the winds of convention. The chaos, realness and excitement of NOWISM is being embraced daily as we challenge all that we have done before. As trendwatching.com says: 'The need is never new. The new ways to fulfil it are.'

So what have we done about all this? Well, we are embracing the future and have developed tools and a mindset that brings together global trends for our clients. We are looking at our own online trends pulse to ensure clients locally, nationally and globally get the very latest information. We are chucking out the silo mentality that is so stuck in the past - a truly multipractice, multidiscipline, multiregional offer that gives clients the combination of talent that is right for each brief, each project, each day. The real trick we are cracking is how to leverage the convergence of new technologies, the availability of business intelligence like never before and changing client expectations.

The ability to bring together cool, longer-view strategic planning with rapid reaction NOW tactics will be what counts.

But no matter how much we evolve and how much better we arm ourselves with the very best ammunition for the future, our value is in our people. Put simply, hire the best people and look after them. The best brains, giving their insight and serious strategic thought to clients at a time when their brands are under more scrutiny than ever before, are what really count.

Views in brief

Which three words describe the perfect account manager of the future?

Adaptable, empathetic, fearless.

How comfortable do you feel pitching against agencies from different disciplines?

We are 100 per cent confident in what we stand for and know when to pitch and when not to pitch. So we always compete believing we will win.

What were/are the essential elements of your most productive client relationship?

In one word, trust.

Loretta Tobin is CEO of UK PR at Grayling.

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