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What will the PR agency of the future look like?

Updated: Dec 19, 2019

On the cusp of a new decade, in a rapidly evolving communications landscape, what does the future hold for the world of PR? Leilani Abels, founder & MD of thrive PR + communications, shares her insights into what the PR agency of the future will look like.

1. CommsTech the new buzz word.

You’ve heard of FinTech and MarTech, well, move over because CommsTech will be the next buzz word in our industry from 2020. PR agency-land is set for disruption. It will be a race to automate and innovate and my bet is that we’ll see it first from the independent agencies who can move more quickly than the global giants. We’ll see new tech ideas and platforms freeing up our junior and mid-level consultants from the administrative tasks such as manual spreadsheet and reporting work. New tech will enable qualified communication professionals to concentrate more on relationships, strategy and creativity, with mundane tasks automated through the use of AI and bespoke technology platforms such as Coveragebook, Prezly and others that we’ll develop inhouse to standardise. Agencies like Thrive, will make big investments in our new world.

2. Rise of “Corp-sumer”.

Thrive defines itself as a “Corp-sumer” agency. The rise of the corp-sumer agency model will continue. There’ll be less separation of departments that have ‘corporate- only’ or ‘consumer-only’ teams. We’ll see less clients need a roster of agencies. There’ll be no need for them to have multiple agencies for corporate and issues work on one side, versus consumer and brand work on the other. Integrated b2b and b2c work will be viewed by great PR agencies through one lens. These are the agencies who will rise to the top.

3. Tech becomes mainstream.

Tech communications will become more mainstream and less specialised from a comms agency perspective. We’ll continue to need highly qualified enterprise and b2b tech consultants but PR consultants across the board will need to be able to take complex tech info and interpret it for a mainstream audience. Tech will just be part of “what we do” in all agencies.

4. Agency Wellbeing.

Looking after the health of agency teams will become an even greater focus for the agency of the future. With a people-first approach, profits will follow for the great agencies who lead the charge and reject the traditional notion that PR industry works a certain way. The PR agencies who have got their people’s backs and are willing to part ways with clients if necessary for the health and wellbeing of their teams, are the agencies who will ultimately attract the best talent and therefore deliver the best work.

5. Content leads PR.

Agencies will have more highly skilled content producers to lead storytelling. Earned media opportunities will be squeezed in the next decade, yet newsworthy content will fly across earned, owned and paid channels, making the PR agencies who can best deliver this, the highest in demand.

6. Gaining a seat in the C-suite.

By the turn of the next decade, the CEO’s most trusted C-suite adviser will be their internal communications representative or their PR agency lead. If it’s internal, that person will be elevated in their role with the support of the external PR agency bringing the internal function even greater kudos. You only have to glance at headlines of the past couple of months to realise how important the role of PR is in building trust and shaping the success of businesses and their leaders. Thought leadership will continue to rise as a theme as the new decade kicks in.

7. Maths storytelling.

The agencies who can best create content by running and interpreting “the numbers” will be way ahead of the game. There’ll be a greater focus on insights, data, research and analytics, and the best agencies will have comms consultants with “maths brains” who can translate that information into compelling storylines that lead to positive commercial impact for their clients.

8. Partners not adversaries.

This decade will deliver a new approach to client/PR agency relationships and the ranking of PR agencies across the broader ad/media/digital roster mix, will go up. Clients will open the doors to their trusted PR counterparts and we’ll see more agencies deliver a hybrid model of service where their consultants spend more time inhouse with the client, acting as not just an ‘extension of the team’ but truly ‘one of the team’. As PR agency work becomes more accountable and results more measurable, PR budgets will continue to increase and partnerships will flourish as clients take more advantage of how resourceful, how creative and how much more valuable their PR agency can be.

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