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5 Key Challenges Facing The Comms Industry

We thought we’d post an extract from an interview Strings did for The Drum where he spoke about the Agency, but also the challenges he saw for the PR & Communications industry as a whole:

To my mind, there are 5 main challenges facing PR and comms agencies, (which if you focus too much on, can be incredibly depressing) however, it’s important that we do talk about them and don’t try and sweep them under the carpet. We’re incredibly excited about the next 3 years and predict double digit growth every year, but it involves our business making sure we are addressing these issues:

1. Demonstrating a clear commercial ROI

It’s something that consumer  PR has historically struggled with. Huge awareness numbers via digital reach don’t necessarily demonstrate engagement or sales, and therefore creates a credibility gap. Especially when lined up against media and more traditional ad agencies. Impacts need to have an impact on a client’s key metrics, else it’s just noise, and we’re spending their money without truly caring – which for me is akin to theft.

2. Retainers are terminally ill

Clients are moving (and have moved) to a project model, which is great for clients, but terrible for agencies from the perspective of reducing over serving and business and resource planning.  It also means that clients are also probably not getting the level of service and quality of creative and thinking that they should.

3. We’ve devalued our industry

Fees haven’t really changed for 20 years and clients are being allowed to keep fees low thanks largely to agencies not truly valuing or caring about what they do and the work they deliver. This is alongside not being able to articulate the value they bring (see earlier point regarding ROI). There is no such thing as a loss leader. It’s a loss. Every client wants to pay the least amount of money they can for the service they require.  They want value, and they don’t care about price.

Unless agencies, particularly consumer PR agencies start believing more in the value they deliver in terms of strategy, creativity, and commercial return they will continue to talk about the need to join the C suite, to get a seat at the top table. The seat is there, the door is open agencies just need to believe more and deliver the work that merits them being invited inside.
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4. Digital integration

Digital is at the heart of every brief and everything every agency does today. But PR agencies need to stop just thinking about owning earned and start thinking in terms of creative ideas that clearly demonstrate integrated thinking. Agencies need to have a focus and be specialist and be clear with what that do and don’t do, but understanding how an idea can work and demonstrating that to a client is critical.

5. Don’t worry about other agencies worry about clients

We used to worry about media agencies taking our food off the table. Now we’re more worried about clients taking projects in-house. Specialist content, creative, PR, event teams are being recruited from agencies across the world to deliver what agencies do, directly with production houses. Why use an agency when you can cut out middle men (who often spend too long trying to reinvent the wheel and talk about strategy)?