Are PR Agencies Obsolete? Why Clients Need Less BS, More BD from Agencies

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Are PR Agencies Obsolete? Why Clients Need Less BS, More BD from Agencies

Jun 04, 2018 / By Content Editor

Note to the reader: This article has nothing to do with GDPR.  You’re welcome.

With the recent (and controversial) departure of Sir Martin Sorrell, the ad agency world’s legendary figure, we’re in a deep intra-agency debate over the future of advertising, media and PR itself – which is one small, but important slice of what agencies do, including our own. It’s not an exaggeration to say that Sorrell single-handedly built WPP into a multi-disciplinary advertising and creative agency behemoth from nothing. But the business and media landscape today are vastly different to those that Sorrell cut his teeth in – and that was a factor in his ouster. 

Re-thinking Ad Spend and Agency Strategy 

Let’s face it, WPP’s global scale is a liability in our climate of zero-based budgeting and …let me just rattle off everything else that’s hurting agencies – tech programmatic, bidding transparency, the death of the 30-second TV spot, changes in media consumption and what else? Everything that is leading companies to rethink their ad spend and agency strategy. That’s what unites us all, from tabloid publicists to Sir Martin Sorrell – we’re in danger of going extinct unless we evolve. 

How will we know when we’re being put out to pasture? Just look at the bottom-line growth – that’s all that ever matters in the end. What happens to agencies as the Accenture Interactives of the world move into digital ad buying? Accenture already helps clients move their digital ad-buying in-house, so why not help them plan, buy and manage it too? It’s not just a service economy anymore …it’s also about tech, data and an agency’s ability to create the opportunity, not just fill it. That’s what Accenture Interactive can do through better technology, and agency clients are taking notice. 

Public Relations ≠ Business Development for Agency Clients 

For all the importance of technology and automation – and we work with clients primarily in B2B technology – PR remains an important part of what we do. Even B2B PR is a people business where relationships and human connections are key factors in driving the outcomes our clients are looking for. Our contacts and industry access speak to our credibility and years of experience, which can’t simply be “turned on” or automated. 

We understand what B2B media audiences need – good content that will be useful and help them drive business. In the process of taking on a new client, we start by educating them on the business side of PR, because far too many people think “PR” is free publicity. Our own clients are telling us …we need lead gen; we need awareness and visibility too, but it’s the leads that will keep our business going. How can we, as their agency, respond to that need for business development versus traditional PR? 

For starters, we’re moving to an integrated model that drives content and message, but also gives the client complete transparency into results – everything we do can be tracked and measured so clients know who’s reading their content, what’s resonating with audiences and where they should focus their sales and marketing efforts. 

Performance. Results. Rinse, repeat. 

And while we can’t automate the relationships we’ve built over the years or the support we give to clients at industry conferences, we can evolve how we communicate traditional PR work to our clients. They’ve been thrilled with the metrics dashboards we’ve created and the ability to see how the PR work we do – like content, emails and media– come together and drive tangible business results like leads, prospects and placements. 

That’s what ThinkInk will be judged on – and it’s what will keep client invoices paid and our agency in business. We’re evolving – and so can other agencies. 

PR for B2B Business Development 

We understand exactly why there’s an agency crisis at WPP and every other agency – because clients all over the world are starting to ask questions. 

For ad agencies, clients have seen the metrics and know they can get more for less. In our case, on the PR agency side, clients are asking us to back up traditional vanity metrics with usable information. If 200 people download a report, for example, how many of them are worthwhile prospects? What company are they with? How many times have they visited the site? By moving to an integrated model – content and messaging plus quantifiable results – ThinkInk can show hard metrics that clients can use beyond the immediate PR campaign. 

And while other agencies may focus on different metrics and audiences, we’re all faced with the same choice …change for the better, or let your own obsolescence show you the door. 

If you want to know more how we’re helping clients transform PR into BD – and how ThinkInk can help your B2B technology company – get in touch here. 

Are you interested in the evolving relationship between agencies and their clients? You’ll like our recent blog (here) on Bell Pottinger and what happens after PR firms self-destruct. 

Content Editor

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