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PR Makeover: Jennifer Hudson, Heidi Montag or Sybil?

May 21, 2010

The PR industry is going through an identity crisis.  The question is whether it’s a long overdue makeover—from which agencies will emerge stronger and more attractive—or an existential breakdown, where they wind up walking the streets mumbling to themselves.

This crisis is market-induced.  Thanks to any number of new tools, such as Salesforce and Marketo, customers have become so used to being able to measure the impact and return of most of their marketing spend.  Except for PR.

The response from PR has been all over the map.  Some agencies have run as far as they can from those two letters, rebranding themselves as everything from ‘digital consultancies’ to ‘engagement marketing shops’.   Most have expanded their toolkits, offering everything from website creation to inbound Social Marketing programs.  A few brave agencies have started working with their clients to develop new financial models based on tying PR-generated leads into revenue-tracking systems and basing part of their comp on the resulting sales activities.

Our advice to our clients is:  find a PR agency that still wants to be a PR agency, that leaves stuff like web development and Social Media to the pros.  One that’s proud of its track record and that still sees the value of dogged press, analyst and influencer activities.  One that can clearly define its own value and identity in today’s market (because if they can’t do it for themselves, how are they going to do it for you?).

It’s likely that this market shake-up will be Darwinian, and that the agencies left standing—whatever they call themselves—will be stronger and leaner.  But our clients can’t wait at the end of this funnel for the ‘agency of the future’.  They need an agency now—and by agency we mean a ‘PR agency.’

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