I flew 9959 miles in 24 hours to Singapore, a journey that, despite the distance, reinforced just how small our world has become. At least when it comes to the PR world. I was at the international meeting of Public Relations Organisation International (PROI), the largest partnership of independent market-leading agencies in the world. We meet with these friends at least twice a year, partner with them on business and sometimes exchange staff for idea-building. Even though our dialects differ, I’m always surprised at how much we have in common.
Our global team, with vice presidents representing Europe, the Americas, Africa and the Asia-Pacific, identified 10 trends affecting our business everywhere:
- The walls have blurred between public affairs, corporate communications and marketing. We saw this at JS several years ago, which is why our creative and coaching services have mushroomed.
- Professional service firms are the new competition. Law firms and management consulting groups are vying for communications work, especially in times of crisis. PR folks must stay ahead by being strategically focused. Our partners from Australia to Japan and Belgium are hiring former business consultants, and some have lawyers on staff.
- There is an increasing role for PR in the C-suite. This is good news, and something we have witnessed firsthand with our leadership, speaker coaching and JS Excavations®.
- Specialization is sweet for the bottom line. While it is important to specialize in niche industries, it is also important for PR firms to invest in niche services, such as market research. At JS, we’ve opted to forge strategic partnerships for research and trademark assistance. And we have niche expertise in branding, design, digital and multimedia.
- We are evolving from generalists to multi-specialists. Emerging markets provide opportunities for PR firms if they are able to identify what they should be focusing on. For example, we capitalized on one client’s growth in Latin America to begin offering media training services in Spanish.
- Transparency is driving the need for culture-building. The ubiquitous social media has led to more work from HR departments who want help building a workforce that will be loyal online as well as offline. It’s also driving social media consulting work.
- The public expects to have a dialogue. PR around the world is benefitting from this new era of customer relationship management. We understand dialogues better than ad agencies that specialize in one–way communications.
- Corporate is demanding better measurement. It’s not just our mothers who can’t explain what we do. Corporate procurement officers are putting on the pressure for better publicity measurement. We’re all working on it.
- De-consolidation is driving opportunities for independent firms. Smaller firms should not be daunted by competition from the large PR holding companies. More and more large corporations are eschewing global accounts and opting to work with independent agencies with multiple offices.
- Talent churn. Top PR practitioners across the globe are getting calls from headhunters and corporations. This is a good news/bad news scenario. Good because it may indicate improving economies; bad because it means PR firms must work harder to retain their best talent. That’s one reason we survey our team regularly and have been recognized as the #2 Agency to Work For in the U.S. We’re striving to be #1 because a happy team makes for happy clients.