Who am I, where am I
It’s no revelation that the public relations industry has been going through a bit of an identity crisis for a while due to corporate mindset change. In this ever-evolving and fluid multi-channel world, what exactly is the PR industry supposed to be, today and tomorrow: PR agencies? Comms agencies? Integrated marketing agencies? Content? Digital? UX? A little of all? A bit of some and more of others? Sometimes, I think there are as many views as there are agencies!
Take the discussion around the burgeoning ‘content industry’ as an example. Creating great content has always been a core competency for PR agencies, so much so, that many across the industry have argued that this should naturally fall within our sphere of influence, as we are the ‘queens and kings of content.’
But, to my mind, that’s a pretty weak argument. Absolutely, we have a natural strength in it, but does a digital or UX agency that hires a great team of content writers or ex-PRs have any less core ability? I think as an industry we’ve all been a little guilty of arrogance when it comes to content (and digital probably falls into this category too) as we assumed it would and should just naturally come to us. But when has that ever happened in business? So, while we waited, others without those assumptions hoovered up a lot of the good stuff. And, then we woke up surprised.
However, if you’re entrepreneurial by nature, all of the above is actually a fantastic thing, because this splintering of all aspects and definitions of marketing, communications and agencies presents an incredible opportunity for the ambitious. More than ever our clients need us (or others…) to make sense of it all. Yes, they have more data at their fingertips than ever before, but “more” is sometimes just “more confusing” without someone to put it all in context, interpret what it means and make strong strategic recommendations on the back of it.
corporate mindset change
And, this is where we, as PRs, can add so much value to the whole process. Why? Because the very essence of what we do requires us to become information sponges, constantly looking for interesting news, views, creative campaigns, angles and so on. This informs our strategic insight and intelligence, which is in turn driven on by our constant thirst for knowledge – it’s all central to our role. We then use the breadth and depth of all this knowledge and experience every day, weaving it into a piece of content, a strategic campaign or a social program. That’s in my view, why we can stake a claim – a strategic, creative and insightful claim.
There is a part of me that thinks that there is just so, so, much opportunity out there that each agency should just make up its own mind what it is, or what it wants to be, and get on with it. In some respects, we’ve held ourselves back by defining ourselves as a PR industry and asking where we collectively go next. While we were doing that, all those other agile young things around us have been sweeping up the opportunities. So, shall we all just get on with it?