The coming war between PR agencies and ad agencies

Summary:PR agencies are well placed to compete for lucrative ad budgets... but they need the right tech capabilities.

Can PR companies “Show Up Differently” as Richard Edelman, CEO of Edelman, the world’s largest privately held PR firm, wrote in his New Year’s rally cry for his troops? 

Edelman understands that PR agencies will need to show up differently if they are to win against the advertising agencies. 

My post this week about  the lack of automation technologies in PR is directly related to this coming confrontation. There’s a great business opportunity for PR agencies to compete for lucrative advertising budgets — if they can prove  performance with solid metrics and at scale.

The pitch is easy: “Spending money on PR is more effective than on advertising, especially with the billions of dollars  lost to ad fraud . We help you build lasting relationships instead of fleeting ad impressions.” 

Some advertising agencies are already vying for some PR accounts but the advertising industry as a whole is going through a lot of consolidation and is very distracted. PR agencies can use this to their advantage.

But can PR agencies show up differently? I’m not convinced they can change fast enough.

I’ve interviewed executives at many thousands of companies in my career and I’ve seen that all businesses are set in their ways to a remarkable degree. In every successful business, no matter the size, the culture and its operational processes are set in concrete. 

The new rules PR agency…

Change is hard and slow, it’s far quicker to start a new organization, or what I call a new rules enterprise; it’s new and no one needs to be persuaded of the right strategy and execution.  

Some of the features you would expect of a new rules PR firm are obvious:  it is tech savvy, tech-first, and run by top PR and media specialists. Its developers would be best described as media engineers — part software engineer/and part media/PR professional.

The technologies of PR…

The use of technology by the PR industry is just beginning and will be essential to its future and its ability to challenge the ad agencies.

PR firms are hampered by a culture that only knows how to grow by adding more people — that’s not a scalable business model and it won’t be a viable model for long. PR needs to develop tools that help leverage the work of its people. And it needs to understand all the media technologies out there and how best to deploy them.

Teaching companies how to be media companies will be a core competency of any successful PR firm. 

By providing the technologies and the services that enable companies to be media companies, PR agencies will be perfectly placed to reach for the advertising budgets. It’s a position of strength and the best strategy for competing against the ad agencies. 

The PR industry has a head start but it’s a short one. Let’s see what it can do.

 

 

Topics: Emerging Tech

About

In May 2004, Tom Foremski became the first journalist to leave a major newspaper, the Financial Times, to make a living as a full-time journalist blogger. He writes the popular news blog Silicon Valley Watcher--reporting on the business of Silicon Valley.Tom arrived in San Francisco in 1984, and has covered US technology markets for leadi... Full Bio

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