Sunday 21 October 2018

PR goes digital despite perceptions

According to Michael O'Keeffe, CEO of Teneo PSG, the old PR model is dead
According to Michael O'Keeffe, CEO of Teneo PSG, the old PR model is dead

John McGee

A couple of weeks ago, one of the country's top public relations agencies, Teneo PSG, appointed James Dunne as a senior strategic planning director to its ranks. Dunne, who has extensive experience working for some of the country's leading creative and digital agencies like Epsilon, the soon-to-be-renamed Target McConnells, McCann Blue and In the Company of Huskies, is a bit of a digital and planning whizz, having worked on brands like Vodafone, Guinness, Google and Failte Ireland.

Ten years ago, many within the public relations industry probably wouldn't have known what a strategic planning director does.

And, it's probably fair to say, that there's a fair few people working in the PR industry today who would still struggle to comprehend what he or she does.

Once the fiercely-protected bailiwick of creative and media agencies, strategic planning in a digital world - where the lines of demarcation between who does what have become blurred - is now an important service offering for most, if not all, of the larger PR agencies.

Times have changed and to remain relevant and useful to their clients, PR agencies - much like their creative and media colleagues - digital is no longer a shiny add-on.

According to Michael O'Keeffe, CEO of Teneo PSG, the old PR model is dead. "Clients are seeking more integrated solutions, greater agility and dynamism. The battleground has shifted and the competitive set has morphed," he says.

O'Keeffe says that 2018 could well turn out to be a "year of competitive convergence where traditional silos will be blown away by marketing realities" and that the industry may see "unholy alliances, mergers and consolidation".

Teneo PSG, of course, is by no means the only PR agency to embed digital into its day-to-day operations.

Some of the bigger agencies like Edelman, Drury Porter Novelli, Fleishman and Wilson Hartnell also offer a range of digital and strategic digital offerings. The common denominator here, however, is that these agencies are all part of multinational groups that have clearly recognised that to make themselves both useful and relevant to their clients, a digital offering is a must-have weapon in a bigger armoury that also includes the more traditional services that the industry is better known for.

As talk of greater integration continues to dominate many of the debates within the wider marketing communications industry, it's clear that clients no longer want armies of agencies supplying different parts of the marketing jig-saw. Several weeks ago, for example, P&G said that it was slashing the number of agencies it deals with by as much as 50pc - a cull that will include many PR agencies.

"This approach to favour multiple agencies has now become unwieldy and complexity is now the enemy of progress," says O'Keeffe, who says that clients will begin to seek lead agencies that can manage integration for them.

What all this means for small Irish agencies - of which there are many - is anybody's guess.

But it has always been somewhat ironic that the world of PR has often suffered from a bad press. Some of this has more to do with a general misunderstanding of its role within the wider marketing communications industry. While perceptions can linger for a long time, the reality is that the PR industry is changing faster than many people realise.

The only problem is not everyone within the industry will be able to keep up with the pace.

n The Institute of Advertising Practitioners in Ireland (IAPI) is teaming up with Core, Ireland's largest marketing communications group, to send a team of young marketing professionals to this year's Cannes Lions Festival.

As part of the Cannes Young Lions competition, marketers under the age of 30- who are working in the client side of the industry - can apply to enter and the winning duo will receive an all-expenses paid trip to the Cannes Lions in June.

To enter, each team of two will have to answer a brief as the brand they work for. Last year, for example, the winning team from Vodafone Ireland answered the brief using the Vodafone brand to tackle the issue of sustainable energy use. The 2018 brief relates tochecktheregister.ie, the website which allows people to check their eligibility to vote in elections and referenda.

Full details of the brief will be outlined at a seminar in the Odeon Cinema, Point Village next Friday, February 16 where everything will be explained while the jury will also be introduced. The deadline for entries is March 5.

"Creativity has a profound and quantifiable influence on marketing effectiveness, with international research proving that creatively-awarded campaigns are six times more efficient than non-awarded campaigns in growing market share," said Shane Doyle, group strategy Director of Core. "Core wants to support the next generation of marketers to unleash their creative thinking."

Further information is available at iapi.ie

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