Morphing Public Relations: Keeping up with the times

Recently a good friend and able competitor closed his public relations operation after many, many successful years. However, things turned south in the past few years and his business waned. Our “Paper of Record” reported on the shift in the PR marketplace, suggesting, “the times they are a changing.”

Well, yes they are.

The article interviewed a lot of pundits who suggested that large agencies are dinosaurs and the new, nimble two-person shop or independent contractor is the new “us.”

Wait a minute. Just because some shops have closed their doors due to a bad economy, misplaced priorities or experiments gone awry, doesn’t mean the larger agency is dead.

Let’s look at some of the realities. Larger shops have the ability to target a lot of resources to an immediate issue or project. If a one-person shop has a migraine…oops! A diverse agency can bring a variety of expertise to the table. The large agency doesn’t have to depend on subcontractors or hard-to-find or hard-to-manage freelancers.

But, wait a minute. What about rates? Actually, while a sole operator has greatly reduced overhead, they have to pay for health insurance, data sets and production by freelancers or specialty shops. The agency on the other hand can churn out product better than butter. The agency has the databases and the internal mechanisms to create and implement campaigns fast.

But something is changing. No longer are clients satisfied with the, “We’ll write up a news release and send it to the newspaper.” Nope. Today, it’s all about the 24-hour news cycle, the blogosphere, the demise of the newspaper and the rise of viral everything. Today, attacks on a client’s reputation come from everywhere and nowhere. It’s clear that agencies have to develop keen skills in all media types, especially social media.

So, to write off the agency as dead is a bit difficult for me. Largeness has a place. Maybe not for the lone entrepreneur needing a quick news release or Op-Ed, but sure-footed and accessible PR resources from a larger entity can handle the really tough stuff.

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