Two-Way Street

PR, social media, events and incentives – Collaboration & communication ideas for demanding businesses from The Castle Group's Mark O'Toole

Archive for September, 2010

Stay relevant, my friend – how PR agencies need to sell digital services

Posted by thecastlegroup on September 30, 2010

In the recent series of blog posts by the quartet of Todd Defren, Steve Farnsworth, Lou Hoffman and Paul Roberts, in what they have termed the 4/4/4/ series, discussion focused primarily on the changing scope of responsibilities for PR agencies. From digital tools to ethics considerations to social media, the posts made clear that public relations has a more prominent seat at the marketing table, and more opportunity to drive strategy for client brand messaging well beyond media relations.

While the theme of relevance pervades many of these posts, the “relevance” is focused mostly on awareness and usage of the tools and managing the issues that come with deeper immersion into client business. But, like my newest TV hero, the Dos Equis Most Interesting Man in the World (who is the coolest TV guy since Thomas Magnum re-upped), staying relevant also means staying thirsty.

Consuming all the emerging tools, participating in social media, introducing new measurement concepts to clients and creating content that has a long shelf life online are musts for any PR practitioner today. But is the thirst there to sell these services correctly? Learning all of the above is just step one — staying relevant and really thirsty needs to manifest itself in the way we sell our services.

The thirsty agency embraces these selling concepts:

  • The retainer is dead. Maybe not for all clients, but PR firms must look to new ways to bill for services. Smaller firms especially have opportunity to reconfigure pricing to account for content creation, brand monitoring, social media strategy and more. Client needs, and the systems and tools to help meet them, are changing too fast for fixed price relationships.
  • There is a lot more money to be made. Client needs are growing more complex. Their content needs are growing, and the PR firm is one of many creative agencies vying for business. The firms best positioned to tackle the most complex client issues will earn the highest rewards.
  • Specialists are needed. Building an offering that includes everything discussed in the 4/4/4 series is daunting. The full-service agency era is taking a backseat (for now) to a more specialized approach. Clients are using separate firms for search, creative, communications, advertising, media buying. There’s an argument to be made that the next great agency model embraces all these disciplines in an integrated way (some firms certainly offer all of these now but typically in a “silo” format), but for now specialists are need. What’s your sweet spot?
  • Communicate your expertise. That’s what PR firms do on behalf of clients, right? The “cobbler’s children” metaphor stopped working once the cobbler got an iPad. It’s not about how slick your website is (but look for a really slick new Castle site shortly) or how much animation your PowerPoint has. For PR firms, it’s never been about us, which is why clients trust us with communicating their brands. We need to tell prospects and existing clients about the digital landscape and how they need to immerse themselves. Companies are looking for direction. The winners will be the ones that provide it.

Marketers, what are you looking for? What impacts your buying decisions? How thirsty are you?

Posted in Marketing, PR, Social Media (or the Digital Divide) | 2 Comments »

BREWBoston and Take Flight!

Posted by thecastlegroup on September 29, 2010

Heard about BREWBoston?

This is a month-long celebration of entrepreneurship in Boston. There are a series of events, discussions and social media platforms – lots of ways to engage.

This is very much a community-driven effort — new events, sponsors and participants can become part of the celebration in a very fluid way.

Mass High Tech publisher and Castle friend Doug Banks is part of a really fun event that combines networking and paper airplane-building. Sadly, my skills are lacking, but we’ll see what Doug and his cohorts come up with.

Take Flight! event details:

You’ll get a chance to showcase your creative talent by flying your own custom-designed paper airplane (we’ll provide the supplies for a $5 donation to The Engineering School) against those designed by technology leaders including Doug Banks, Publisher of Mass High Tech, Matthew Growney, CEO of Isabella Products, co-founder of Rudyard Partners, and Scott Kirsner, Innovation Economy Columnist at The Boston Globe. Winners of the competition will receive great prizes like an Ambient Flurry Alarm Clark + Weather Forecast, Vizit two-way photo sharing frame, or tickets to the Museum of Science.
Registration is free but space is limited. Hope you’ll take flight with us on the 12th!
The Engineering School (TES) is a Boston public high school formed in 2005 as a response to the dramatic gap in the number of women and people of color in the field of engineering. TES’s mission is to provide young women, African-American and Latino students a pathway to careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). In addition, the school has a 30% population of students with disabilities and is committed to developing an inclusive engineering curriculum for all students regardless of ability. For more information about The Engineering School, please contact Marc Abelard,

Feel free to send me pictures or video of your paper airplane skills and we’ll post them on Castle’s Facebook page and with BREWBoston.

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2nd BWP Odd Pairing Experiment

Posted by thecastlegroup on September 22, 2010

Sick of the same old events? Boston World Partnerships, an economic driver that I am proudly part of, is hosting its 2nd Odd Pairing Experiment. The first was a great mix of very different speakers, tons of meaningful attendees and an awesome venue. 

This next one promises the same. Here are details. 

Join Boston World Partnerships’ Connectors for our 2nd Odd Pairing Experiment.  Panelists will lead an interactive discussion on the topic of how organizations tell their stories. 

Damon Jones, Global Communications Director, Procter & Gamble, and former Director of Press Relations for the 2008 Democratic National Committee

Howard Anderson, Distinguished Senior Lecturer of Entrepreneurship at MIT Sloan, Founder of The Yankee Group, and Co-Founder of Battery Ventures

Chris Colbert, Founder of the marketing agency Holland Mark, and sherpa of FutureM

Susan Rodgerson, Founder and Executive/Artistic Director of Artists For Humanity

Peter Brown, Chief of Staff to the President & CEO of Partners Healthcare, Former News Director at WBZ-TV 


Dave McLaughlin, Executive Director of Boston World Partnerships and award-winning filmmaker 

When: Wednesday – October 6, 2010 

Where: Artists for Humanity EpiCenter
100 W 2nd St.
Boston, MA 02127 

Time: Registration: 6:00pm -6:30pm
Speaking Program: 6:30pm – 7:30pm
Networking Reception: 7:30pm – 9:00pm 

Fee: $55 early bird & BWP Connectors
$75 General Admission 

To buy tickets, please visit:

Posted in Castle News, Events & Incentives, fun stuff and more, Marketing, PR, Social Media (or the Digital Divide) | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »