Last month Clariteer Michael Gonzalez had the opportunity to speak at the AGM of the Swedish PR Agency Association on the topic of international PR trends.
The Q&A session that followed was fascinating, to say the least. It’s very clear that if you work in PR today – whatever part of the world – these are changing times.
Here are some of the main trends that were debated:
The Art of Planning
The world of PR has always been very good at creative and strategic thinking but in the future, as the traditional agency and client relationship model is changing, skills around planning and project management will be increasingly critical. In many parts of the world, the agency model is developing more towards a ‘consortium’ of multiple best-of-breed agencies across PR, digital, social, brand marketing and public affairs serving one single client. As the world around us is getting more complex and competitive, the emergence of specialist niche experts is a natural development. What is less obvious is how these companies can collaborate together to serve the client’s purpose. Will frictions rise? Is an agency comfortable to tell a client or prospects that there are others who are better placed to serve them? Will working with multiple agencies not be a headache for a client? “Possibly” is the best answer to all of these questions but it does require a mindset that is as open and honest as it’s confident and competent to make this work. But it will never work just with creative and strategic flair – planning, coordination and project management will be just as essential.
The Future of Media Relations
This is still one of the most frequently debated topics in the world of PR: The future of media relations at a time when the traditional media landscape is consolidating in many parts of the world and the trust in media waning. In the US, newsroom employment has fallen by 40% since 1994, and in the UK, Marie Claire – one of the most iconic magazines – closed and went online last year. The Reuters Institute of Journalism reports that across the world, the average level of trust in news in is down 2% to 42% and trust levels in France have fallen to just 24. Despite all this, it’s clear that media relations are still the bedrock of many PR operations and one of the most in-demand services from clients. With journalists being more time-pressed than ever and highly skeptical of PRs, the only way for media relations to be successful is to take a truly journalistic approach: think, speak and write like a reporter. Otherwise, it smells too much like self-centered publicity and your media relations practice will be short-lived.
The Extraordinary State of the World
Climate change, terrorism, the battle for diversity, digital privacy, national security, Brexit, and the rise of populism have changed the comms industry as we know it. Most things we work on today are put into the context of these forces and require a new level of understanding, sensitivity, and organizational scrutiny. This is critical as comms not only have to adapt but it has to lead on these issues. The role of comms has always been to inform, educate, clarify and call for change. This is more important than ever as the world is getting more complex, confusing and polarised. It’s clear that issues management is now not just a value-added service but it’s the core of what the comms industry is centered around. While traditional media consolidates, social media is as fragmented as ever.
The PR Agency Identity Crisis
With the constant change of the industry, it’s no wonder that the agency world is perhaps suffering from some sort of identity crisis. PR professionals might question their role, purpose and expected impact. The main advantage (and often biggest challenge!) of the PR agency has always been its ability to gain a unique insight into multiple industries, and it’s that experience that enhances its ability to consult and be creative. One of the members of the Swedish PR association referred to PR agency professionals as ‘intellectual nomads’ which in many ways is a perfect way to describe us! Regardless of who you work for and where you are based, that roaming role from strategic insight to driving communications probably serves you better than ever today.