Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The New Public Relations Agency

originally posted on The Open Room

Here's an interesting report done up by ZDNet, a news site / blog that covers the beat in the Technology industry. It's called "Is Social PR For Real? Which Agencies Get It?"

A timely article, with some great research insights from internal PR directors / managers followed by chief marketing officers / vice presidents of marketing and small business owners as some of the world's major economies start slowing down and anybody in a decision making position is held even more accountable on the budgets that they spend.

More than ever, Return On Investment (ROI) will be a deal breaker and a key tenet to effect real change to any business or organisation.

Do good communications practices ultimately affect your bottom line? You bet it does! In today's increasingly mass commodified and audience fragmented world, reaching your audience and having a relationship that transcends transactions builds customer loyalty, advocacy for them to tell others about you. You want to be that 'go-to' resource when a customer has a need, and you want to sell them the best possible product that you have to better their lives.

But this isn't really about that.. we're going to talk more about some of the insights found in the ZDNet article.

These were some of the key points i picked out from the report:

1. Agencies do not fully follow through with what was promised during a new business pitch.
Only 20% strongly agreed and 18% agreed that their agencies achieved this. A vast majority 30% somewhat agreed and a good 26% agreed with the claim.

Credit: ZDNet.com

Credit: www.zdnet.com

I suspect this also comes from the 'fluid' nature of social media, or perhaps a lot of it comes from over-promising and making unrealistic strategies and tactics. While everyone is hungry for new business in these times, more should be done to keep both clients and agencies accountable on deliverables with accountable measurement.

2. Agencies do not necessarily understand how their communications work past getting news coverage and actually affecting a client's business
Yes, something we can all be guilty about. Good public relations is more than just generating news coverage (quantitative), but it is about projecting a positive image of the clients you represent (qualitative)

Credit: www.ZDnet.com

Credit: www.zdnet.com

In our line of work, both qualitative and quantitative share equal importance. But as audiences become extremely fragmented, it's harder to see media as mass communications anymore. I think a smart move any of us can do, is to think very strategically and produce quality content to the publics that matter first and foremost, before trying to reach the world. Pool your resources together to communicate the things that matter, to the people that matter.

3. Clients really expect agencies to know social media

This is great! 78.8% of clients understand the importance of having a social media campaign and expect their agencies to know it as well! While I hesitate to say that agencies should know more about social media than their clients, I'd like to think that it's not the knowledge gap in a new medium that allows an agency to work with its clients, but MORE about how the agency is a valued partner and comes up with workable social media campaigns that understands the industry their client is in, what drives their clients business and then HOW social media can work for them and their customers.

Credit: www.ZDNet.com

Credit: www.zdnet.com

4. Clients know enough about social media to get by
This is another good sign. About two years ago, clients and agencies were starting to experiment with social media. Today, a good 39.8% know enough to get by, and 37% have a good grasp about how social media will contribute to their business. Nothing gets me more excited when I speak to clients who do not just name drop social media buzzwords, but are actually talking about strategy, credibility, transparency and forming relationships with their people that matter.

Credit: www.ZDNet.com

Credit: www.zdnet.com

5. Clients would like free social media training
A good 46.5% said they would attend if they didn't have to pay for it, and a good 35.4% said they would attend regardless.

Credit: www.ZDNet.com

Credit: www.zdnet.com

While ZDNet recommends it would be in our best interest to not charge for training sessions, from an agency point of view, media training for clients usually comes at a cost. I believe social media training is equally important. Public image isn't nurtured overnight, same thing as a social presence. Your avatar can be considered your public image on the social net, and such training is a worthwhile investment and accelerator if you don't have time to pore through all the myriad of "How-To" posts from blogs.

But, i'm willing to see the flipside to this. It's just one more thing to pay for isn't it? Perhaps possible ways forward is to package this as part of a programme, keeping costs lower. In business, I guess most things are negotiable.

(And who says we don't give away anything for free? Check out Ogilvy On Recession, a free resource of insights and thought igniters on how to work smart in the downtime.)

6. Most agencies recommend the tools to drive social media
Worrying. 29% of clients agree somewhat that agencies make the tools the centerstage when it comes to social media / PR campaigns. Add 14% that agree and 8% that strongly agree, that's almost a total of 51% of agencies who are trying to pull a fast one with shiny, free applications created by other people to get new business.

Credit: www.ZDNet.com

Credit: www.zdnet.com

Once again, it's not the tools that drive social media, they are the means to an end. What ultimately makes a campaign successful is the strategy and content that netizens get, and perhaps a close second, the relationships that at least get you into the door to pitch a story or idea.

Summary
In closing, it's great to see more clients stepping up and understanding social media. Having that knowledge allows you to see through an agency's smokescreen of buzzwords, fancy charts and overwhelming statistics.

Then it's the agency's turn to show clients just why we're so great to work with. Whether it's through strategic acumen, industry knowledge, media relations, creative ideas, professionalism and accountability. A working relationship doesn't have to be purely transactional, but a valued relationship that sees both parties growing as our audiences continue to grow as well. Y'see PR2.0 isn't about the social media, it's about the culture adopted by both clients and agencies responding to a changing audience.

32 comments:

Melvin said...

1. Agencies do not fully follow through with what was promised during a new business pitch.
(Kena snook!)

2. Agencies do not necessarily understand how their communications work past getting news coverage and actually affecting a client's business
(Gey Kiang!)

3. Clients really expect agencies to know social media
( Adaben!)

4. Clients know enough about social media to get by
(Tam Pok Ay Sai Jiu Hor la)

5. Clients would like free social media training
(Free is breast!)

6. Most agencies recommend the tools to drive social media
(Kilat Sikit Ada STYLE)

Summary
Apologies for the localization but i think this articles has really hit the spot where it hurts the most. We want clients to walk the talk and embrace social PR as an organic way of business. it really isnt just PR anymore when you consider it can be used for leads generation, buzz marketing, market research etc..

Great post Brian!

oldskoolmark said...

Great Post Brian! I was just wondering how to make sense of this data after browsing through the article before i came upon your post.

Cant agree more with what Melvin has mentioned, hahaha.

Pat said...

To my dearest partner on my left:

A beautiful post. :)

Boston PR firm said...

Great article.

It's definitely important that PR firms understand social marketing and help their clients understand it better as well. This will definitely help build a better relationship between both the PR firm and their clients.

Timothy

brian koh said...

@Melvin: Ahahaaha, i love the localisation! And yeah, nobody owns social media! that's the shift! Before, we were at the mercy of media companies, now we can make our own (thanks for players like Google and all)

@oldskoolmark: Ahahaha, no worries! I'm glad it helped -) Looking forward to your own analysis

@Pat: Ahahahaha, thanks! You are ever so lovely -)

@BostonPRFirm: You betcha! I wish your firm every success -) Thanks for dropping by!

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