Wake up call. Times are a changin’ for the PR industry. Fast.
Now more than ever, our industry is witnessing the need for new roles and skills at agencies. What lies at the heart of this change? Agencies are being called upon to solve new and unique business problems that require highly integrated approaches using owned, earned and paid media. Whereas in the past, one could break into PR by having decent writing and media relations skills, agency models are aggressively shifting to reflect the need for more producers, editors, content strategists, designers, copywriters and creative directors that often reflect models used at ad agencies.
Companies are quickly catching on to the value of centralizing planning, production, execution and measurement under one roof to improve project efficiency and nimble decision making. While some agencies have made moves to shift from a traditional title structure, most big agencies are still working to define the best model and approach to reflect the versatile new talent and capabilities of their teams.
Below are three evolving positions (of many) that are helping PR agencies put a stake in the ground in this new landscape. As you think about your own career, map out and drill down on the variety of skills that you are applying across your client work on a daily basis. Chances are good that you’re touching some degree of work tied to each of the roles described and beyond.
PR pros have always been recognized as solid writers. The written word will continue to serve as the foundation for communications. Nonetheless, we now operate in a visually-driven communications environment where we need to think strategically about combining text and visuals to effectively deliver targeted messages. Moreso, these communications need to be on brand and highly engaging – all the time. Whether communicating through a video, infographic, tweet or Facebook status update, content directors are being called upon to help guide overarching brand voice and ensure that every piece of brand content resonates with your customers and target audience.
People to Check Out: Chris Sewell
We’re there. Creativity and technology have merged and are at the center point of well designed engagement campaigns. It’s simply unacceptable for Creative Directors to not have a deep understanding of digital strategy and likewise, Digital Strategists must think and plan through the eyes of a creative and design lens. This convergence has lead to the evolving role of Creative Technologists who are able to bring a new and unique perspective to the role of planning as well as guide smart execution on everything from site builds and videos to effective paid content syndication and online community management.
People to Check Out: Parker Ward, Justin Tsang
As more and more brands are moving towards self-publishing models and exploring new avenues for taking their message straight to their target audience, so too are agencies expected to help shape and support these communication models. At their core, publishing sites operate just like online news sites and thus require a structured team chalk full of managing and associate editors, writers, community managers, art directors/graphic designers and content producers. Naturally, this role has a close tie in with Content Directors and Creative Technologists who embody the skills needed to effectively plan and operate these sites.
People to Check Out: David Patton
In closing, I would encourage you to remember that a title is in fact just a title. At the heart of each of the positions above, you’ll note the important shift at senior levels from mere strategic guidance and oversight to practical execution. These aren’t just planners and managers. These are doers. We need more experienced doers in our industry and that may very well mean that we need to get over the title game and follow suit of Swedish ad shop Honesty by abolishing digital titles all together.
As reported in Ad Age, Honesty’s CEO Walter Naeslund remarked:
“We are really getting rid of excuses for the rest of the staff not to learn digital and mobile,” he said. “After the announcement this morning the entire agency was suddenly on their feet devouring blogs, podcasts and whitepapers when they realized it was going to be their own responsibility and nobody else’s to deliver on digital and mobile. It was a beautiful sight…”
It’s a grand vision for big agencies but I couldn’t agree more Mr. Naeslund. We’re operating in a brave new world. Time to take action and adjust.
Photo courtesy of stevendepolo.