via Forbes: The focus areas of traditional public relations agencies are changing. Small, mid-size and large firms represent clients whose communication wants and needs are progressing as business and consumer habits evolve.
A 2017 USC Annenberg Global Communications study shows that 87% of professionals believe the term “public relations” will not describe the work they do in five years. Additionally, 60% of marketing executives believe PR and marketing will become dramatically more aligned in the near future.
As budgets rise, so do expectations of companies and what their agencies of record and team members should provide. Is it advantageous for firms to draw the line and specialize in PR or modernize and expand services for broader value?
LinkedIn lists more than 12,000 PR companies in its U.S. database. IBISWorld estimates nearly 100,000 people are employed in this field that generates $13 billion in annual revenue. Organizations like the Public Relations Society of America, with more than 22,000 members, aim to advance the profession through education and awareness.
In today’s environment, how many PR agencies solely offer this single service? There are about 120,000 marketing firms in the U.S. and 500,000 worldwide which includes ad agencies, design studios and research companies.
At first glance, could it be true that only about 10% of U.S. agencies focus exclusively on PR? For those of us in the industry, this may come as a shock, but the statistic could reveal where PR firms are headed.
Expanded Skill Set
Disciplines in PR are wide-ranging: content creation, corporate communications, events, executive coaching, internal communications, promotional asset production, media relations, multi-media, social media, reputation management and more. Job descriptions for PR professionals include technical abilities like strategic communications, research, writing and creativity, but also of importance are campaign development, social integration, keynote presentations and other tasks.
Gone are the days of writing and distributing news releases, then pitching media. While this process is important and still relevant, incorporating creative visuals and video in the delivery greatly increases the success rates of placements. If the client doesn’t have these assets, it becomes imperative for firms to develop them.
Partners may also expect you to manage the back end of their websites by uploading news releases to blog sections, scheduling links for social and monitoring web analytics. To extend lifecycles of significant publicity, it might make sense to include it within paid social campaigns. Did you learn these skills in your college journalism classes?
It is well documented that there is a seismic shift in media consumption. This is causing audiences to become fragmented, with the broadcast industry feeling considerable strain as layoffs continue. “Cord-cutting” is a trend to watch, but may be overstated — Deloitte noted in a recent survey that 74% of consumers continue to hold paid subscriptions.
Regardless, this topic cannot be ignored as the growth rate of television is slowing. Whichever side of the fence you fall, media fragmentation is affecting the way PR firms think about servicing clients and obtaining impactful results.
Social Media Influence
Last year, Twitter celebrated its 10th anniversary and boasts 317 million active monthly users. In the first quarter of 2017, Facebook had 1.94 billion active monthly users. Instagram was purchased by Facebook in 2012 for $1 billion and now features more than 30 million active monthly users. Social media was once a novel idea and something to monitor but is now a required focus in the PR industry.
Even if PR associates are not active personally, it is critical to be aware of what is taking place on social media in real time. Many reporters and other media influencers use Twitter as their primary channel; clever direct messages or tweets to these individuals could help develop a relationship. Social channels also serve as a means to repurpose publicity and blog content to drive users back to clients’ websites.
How We Have Evolved
Our agency began 17 years ago as a PR firm exclusive to golf. As the industry shifted and marketing advanced, so has our need to meet client demands. Now a global full-service integrated marketing firm, we credit our success to broadening our offerings beyond PR to strategy, social media, creative, paid search, SEO, content creation and data analytics.
Through strategic acquisitions and hiring specific areas of expertise, our once small shop has exploded from 25 to 55 functional experts in less than two years. Backgrounds in sports include journalism, ticket sales, campaign development, AdWords, Amazon marketing and more. The assemblage brings together a wide range of skills and passion areas.
Smart infrastructure growth has opened doors to new segments – fitness, lifestyle, outdoor, soccer and other sports categories – and imprinted an even bigger stamp on our golf leadership as well.
For brands in need of PR first and foremost, the decision power is in your hands. The lines between third-party journalism and consumer journalism are blurred, so it’s prudent to review firms with a strong focus on both media and adjacent marketing disciplines. PR will always be important, but its impact is amplified when coupled with digital and social programs.
For PR firms looking to be ahead of the curve, find ways to disrupt and innovate internally. Explore staff’s passions and develop skills in adjacent categories. Create case studies to leverage in client upsell and prospect discussions. If you can’t offer a specific marketing service, don’t try to act like you do only to disappoint. Make note of the conversations and decide the value of investment to build that practice.