Two-Way Street

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

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?

2 Responses to “Stay relevant, my friend – how PR agencies need to sell digital services”

  1. Castle Group: Love this post, especially the part about “there is a lot of money to be made.” Maybe we will all become accidental billionaires? Cheers, David

  2. Thanks David. Hopefully it’s not “accidential” but real opportunity to monetize the wild Internet.

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