The public relations industry is entrenched in an identity crisis.
Many PR firms are realizing that clients today demand more than what traditional agencies provide. Plenty of organizations could benefit from strategic partners who understand their business goals and use a fresh, integrated approach to deliver results.
In response, hordes of aging agencies have updated their core messaging to remain relevant. Instead of touting size and experience—as they had in the past—those agencies are using buzzwords like “modern,” “contemporary” and “digital” to lure clients.
Not all traditional agencies have updated their business models to justify those new claims. They’ve put lipstick on a pig, so to speak, and it’s created a confusing market for brand managers in need.
That trend has created three types of firms:
What must change
Agencies often lean on dated practices. Though some now offer social media services, they lack sophistication and fail to drive meaningful or measurable results. Although they produce visibility, they do little to help clients translate that coverage into success. They deliver campaign analytics that use arbitrary measurement methods such as ad value equivalency. This must stop.
Buzzwords are being used to recruit and retain millennial talent. Leaders at top organizations are drinking their own Kool-Aid and refusing to take an honest look at the misalignment between their marketing claims and business models. Instead, brand managers should be honest about their identities.
Converting from a traditional agency requires radical restructuring from top to bottom. Above all, it requires fresh faces and new ideas. Integrated agencies must solicit those new ideas, but they must also have integrity and be transparent about what they offer clients.