A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to spend a couple of days in the Hunter Valley on a retreat for PR agency leaders, hosted by the PRIA’s Registered Consultancies Group. While there were plenty of takeaways over the two days, there were a few things that really stood out.
It’s our time.
The Golden Age for PR agencies has arrived. Decades of the “cult of the creative” in agency land is being replaced by an earned model that delivers outstanding connection and campaign value. It’s a trend sweeping the globe with massive shifts in the way agencies are organising their teams, their talent mix and articulating their value. The value of our core competencies – understanding what is newsworthy; knowing how to tell stories; understanding the nuance of influence – is the driving force behind the best “new creative” work being done.
In the past, PR played downstream as an executor of creative already set and we missed the opportunity to deliver the essential media coverage and social amplification that is key to success. But a PR-led model lets us play to our strengths with a one-team mindset driven by an empowered PR team that integrates the creative, account management and client connection and trust. Additionally, agencies are moving up into high end consulting work, where our understanding of trust, risk, reputation and influence plus a strong competency in issues management are highly valued.
The other thing that really stood out is that PR people love working in PR agencies, and that’s great news for clients, because it means that’s where you’ll find the most engaged, driven and passionate practitioners.
Covid sparked the great resignation and yes, the PR industry lost key staff, sometimes to other industries altogether but often to in-house communications roles. But there has been a swing back. The grass was not greener, and there are lessons in the data shared at the conference, for agencies and brands with in-house teams alike.
Why they left. And then came back.
This is what the rebounders have told their agency bosses:
- From burn out to rust out. Some felt life might be easier on the other side. But then they found it boring and mundane by comparison. They went from high paced energetic delivery of campaign after campaign for clients to a much slower pace that lacked the buzz and energy.
- For a creative comms person there was a greater alignment to core values in an agency business.
- Political and internal stakeholder management felt harder to navigate and manage company side.
- Lack of collaboration. Collaboration is core in agency – it’s what we do every day.
- Less flexibility and autonomy. Brands that are yet to get on board with the new world approach to flexibility can either get there fast or say goodbye to their best performing staff. Agency will gladly snap them up!
Finally, I learned something pretty gratifying about our small agency.
Punching above our weight
As I sat in discussions with agencies much larger in both revenue and headcount, I was proud to see that our agency absolutely stacked up against the big guys on basically every industry benchmark. We are proud to be independent and not beholden to a set of global rules to play by and are proud to be in an industry where anyone can be a success if they pursue their goals with vigour.
I guess the end point of all of this is that I want you to be reassured that the resources and time you invest in a working relationship with us are well worth it – PR is the right discipline to get results and we’re the team who will passionately deliver for you.