Developments in our Digital World

12 years, 1 month ago

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At the beginning of the year, Results International brought together leading figures from the UK PR industry to get their thoughts on how the industry is developing in today’s digital world. A cross-section of views follows, introduced by Keith Hunt.



While there are many challenges in store, the overall mood is one of enthusiasm. With a little foresight, planning and belief in its traditional strengths as well as the ability to evolve, the PR industry should be well placed to secure a leading role in supporting clients across online and offline channels.

Here’s what a quintet of leading lights in the UK PR industry think:

Chris Lovell, Group CEO, Golley Slater

“As of March 2007 there were over a billion people worldwide connected to the internet and – therefore potentially – to each other, and to every CEO, brand manager and journalist on the planet. So how will this fact affect the way that the entire communication industry operates and what organisation is the window onto this? The Washington Post, The New York Times, the BBC, the FT or CNN?

No – it’s Google. So, the challenge for our industry is to stop thinking about Google as a ‘search engine’ and start thinking in terms of a ‘reputation and relationship management engine’.

How would this new thinking materialise? Encouraging and embracing innovation and creativity; not just in terms of the collateral we produce on behalf of our clients, but in the communications management processes; we’ll need to re-invent and re-imagine to deliver that collateral.
For 50 years creativity has been at the level of the message – to thrive in this new world, we’re going to move up a level. Be creative in re-thinking strategy, in re-imagining the communications management processes that deliver on those strategies, and in redesigning our organisations so that they’re robust and resilient enough to cope with this jump to light speed.”

Steve Ellis, CEO, Metia

“Apart from fundamentally changing the channels of communication, the dynamics between participants, the concept of influencers, the characteristics of target audiences, the methods of measurement, and the techniques of communication practice – well apart from that, not much has changed.

I’m not sure there will be such a thing as a traditional PR agency any more. Our PR business is already inextricably linked with our interactive and marketing businesses. Frankly, it’s getting more and more difficult to see where the join is.

Increasingly, clients request integrated solutions. They are as interested in our ability to build and deploy gadgets, as to draft press releases.”

Andres Wittermann, Senior Vice President EMEA, Lewis PR

“The end of PR as we have known it for many years has come. In the past 15 years we learned to use the basic online tools like the internet, email and instant messaging to leverage our PR. We also learned that in the age of global web-based communication all PR becomes more and more global by nature as everyone can read English content once you place it on the web.

What we currently see is how the new Social Web (2.0 as some call it) starts to evolve to full power. As David Meerman Scott writes in his latest book (The New Rules of Marketing & PR): ‘The internet has made public relations public again, after years of almost exclusive focus on the media.’

Today everyone is a content creator and content provider, from corporate communications departments down to the consumer. The new web connects us all in unprecedented ways.

Blogs, podcasts, vodcasts (or vlogs), social networks, new emerging communities, viral marketing (and viral PR), professional word of mouth marketing, search engine optimisation (and SEO’d press releases) and last but not least the power of RSS (really simple syndication) are all elements of a PR currently emerging. PR will be more powerful than ever before, replacing some traditional elements of the marketing mix.”

Crispin Manners, Director, Service Innovation, Kaizo

“The Time Magazine review of the year in December 2006 was entitled ‘And the person of the year is you’. It dedicated almost the whole issue to the Web 2.0 revolution and the way it is changing the behaviour of individuals, organisations and brands. This watershed feature by a traditional media provider highlighted that it is time to rethink how we all communicate.

The pervasive access to the internet has finally liberated people to consume information from sources they trust and to become trusted providers of information in their own right. This means that the trust problems flagged by many research studies have finally come home to roost.

People simply don’t trust marketers much. And it gets worse with age – by the time people reach 40, studies show they pretty much discount all marketing.

But the technology that is connecting people on a scale and at a speed never seen before provides opportunities to brands who are prepared to rethink their behaviour. It’s time to stop marketing at people and start marketing with them. Direct engagement and involvement with your key audiences will produce more sustainable organisations that can boast high advocacy and recommendation rates. This is a seismic shift and the first to embrace the change will benefit the most.”

Fraser Hardie, Senior Partner, Blue Rubicon

“There is no doubt that media fragmentation, convergence technologies and the emergence of digital communication changes the game for all agencies. The real value creators in the new world will be those who understand how to campaign, engage and become relevant to niche groups and networks on the agendas that matter to them.

I’m not talking about small groups either. More the principle of building a multitude of networks populated with emotionally engaged supporters which aggregate into a body of support for a brand, business or institution. In my view, more learning will come from political campaigning and intelligent PR than from ad agencies and the current crop of digital shops.

Strong support and good reputations are built on powerful narrative brought to life through compelling storytelling. The best PR agencies will combine forensic clarity, creative storytelling and intelligent campaigning. The few that do will have far more power and influence.”


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The Author

Keith Hunt

Keith Hunt is managing partner at Results International. Results advises the marketing communications industry, working with advertising, PR sales promotion, direct marketing, design, interactive, media buying, market research, telemarketing and others marketing services organisations. It provides a full range of business strategy, client and staff satisfaction, change management and corporate finance advice.

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