Go to any industry function these days – PR, advertising, marketing, then add whatever sub-group you can think of – and you’re sure to hear someone moaning about how another discipline is encroaching on their patch: PR firms with ideas above their creative station who think they can do advertising (as if!), marketing firms thinking they’re intelligent enough to do PR (yeah, sure!) and those uppity ad guys realising they might have to actually get their hands dirty and come down a level or two to compete against those making the money today.
And as for digital, well, don’t get me started.
Now all of the above is said in jest and is typical of this time of the year.
But I do want to make one serious point. We are all obsessed with navel gazing, with looking nostalgically at a rose-tinted, beautifully boxed past while all the time the future is in danger of getting away from us.
I am asked all the time should we be worried who is eating our lunch, cutting our grass, blowing one of our clients’ hair back with their approaches. And my answer is simple. PR agencies are diversifying, spreading into areas where only a few short years ago even angels feared to tread. At Ogilvy PR we’re scripting, producing and filming our own videos, we’re creating more and more content for every conceivable platform, we’re blogging, we’re building websites, we’re running clients’ social media, writing white papers, thought leadership reports, case studies and stories, producing infographics, organising major launches and events, providing new services in data and insight and finding influencers. And that’s just the start of it because the future has all sorts of possibilities opening up through the incipient rise of technologies like artificial intelligence and the effect those technologies will have on consumer habits and how people are influenced.
Which brings us to one of the reasons why PR is evolving and diversifying: we not only can, but must.
The impact of new technologies on the consumption of communications means that we have to change – standing still means going backwards at an ever-increasing rate. The scatter-gun press release of a fabled past has no chance of success in today’s fractured and fragmented media, and hasn’t now for some years.
We understand the world has changed in an extraordinary way and at an extraordinary pace. But more importantly, our clients also understand it has changed and are demanding difference.
Clients no longer care where the big idea comes from. They covet SEO, they are all over social media, they get data and analytics, they understand modern marketing, the IT that is required to support marketing operations infrastructure, they understand the need for creative speed, and they know that consumers are no longer looking for perfection.
Clients are also more prepared than ever to accept that not everything is going to work. They want us to be creative, to put exciting, edgy things out there – and we can do all that at the sort of cost and speed that makes the price of failure doesn’t impact our ability to innovate.
So we’re diversifying, encroaching, cutting others lunch and we make no apologies for doing it. And all the other disciplines are doing the same. Every industry is being continually disrupted by the digital revolution and there’s no reason our industry should be exempted.
So, can we stop having this debate and focus on getting on with doing great work?