People – activists, employees, consumers, community members – are increasingly finding stronger, more influential voices, transforming themselves in to citizens that are more apt to critically interact with relevant institutions, including brands. Today, people want to speak and be heard, in real-time. By voicing opinions, critiques or suggestions, people determine the value of an organization.
More than making a purchase from brands, they want to have experience with them. Brands are built not only through the tangible benefits they offer, but also by inspiring people with their essence through causes and content sharing. The perceived brand attitude goes beyond what brands say about themselves. Behavior precedes communication.
This context is blurring the lines that separate disciplines, tools and communication channels. How do we decouple the marketing strategy and audience from the corporate strategy and audience? How do we isolate advertising, promotion, media relations, social media, etc., if integrated and continuous processes of multichannel engagement are what actually work? Departmental silos still exist in companies and agencies, but their extinction will become a reality in just a matter of time.
In most cases, public relations agencies are still structured to provide the services as determined by the market. This is also the case with advertising, promotion, digital and other agencies. In the new scenario, agencies of any type tend to simply become communication agencies. What will differ is their original culture, their way of seeing and thinking and their means of compensation.
In the face of this, the culture of public relations has a competitive advantage because of its ability to adapt to the new world, since its natural habitat is complexity, multi-stakeholder relationships and value sharing.
The business model also contributes that as compensation is based on allocated professional hours, the PR agencies are not affected by the inevitable reduction of mass media revenue. They are free to balance client budgets according to specific client characteristics and real needs.
To best leverage this opportunity in becoming the most strategic client partner in building and protecting their brands, PR agencies cannot just rely on their vocational and commercial advantages. They need to acquire and integrate new knowledge and skills, incorporating branding concepts and methodologies, regularly conducting research, shaping content, recognizing and mastering best practices on multiple channels, and most importantly opening and expanding their creative power, because nothing involving humans can escape inventiveness and emotions.
We are moving in the right direction – almost there!