PR must own beyond earned media in a merged media world.
As a marketing communications industry we seem obsessed with conversations around the disruption of the agency landscape. What is the future for creative and media agencies? What scopes will they cover? What about PR? Is it dead? Will it thrive? Will there still be publicists in the future? It seems like every day, there’s a new hypothesis.
As specific to PR, a good place to help us understand what’s happening is to look at broader trends. GWI did a recent study on consumer media consumption, which found that there is approximately 11 hours of media consumption done by individuals every day. This amounts to an average of 225 minutes watching television, 218 minutes on phones and tablets, 120 minutes on computers, 83 minutes listening to radio or streaming audio and 21 minutes reading print. This seems like a tremendous amount, but remember, media is not consumed in a vacuum – users multitask. They mix and mingle between media sources, often combining two of the listed sources at once. Since 2011, daily media consumption generally has increased steadily around the world, based on constant access through mobile devices (which is probably how you’re consuming this piece right now).
As communications people what does this tell us? If users are generally consuming more media and they’re mixing and mingling between sources while they do so, isn’t the requirement for communications professionals even higher than it’s ever been? For brands to interact with today’s consumers, it means they have to mix and mingle and present themselves within the current landscape in a way that mimics how their audience is behaving. I call this idea ‘merged media’. It’s the convergence of all of the platforms and the way they interact and merge from an audience point of view, because to them how they interact and consume a brand is all one experience. It’s also the way what has known to be ‘PR’ needs to be redefined.
The changing shape of media platforms does not mean the brokerage of earning media and conversation dies – on the contrary, providing we ensure we have the right skills, mindset and speed to thrive in real time for our clients and brands we will redefine our value. We will own merged media in a real time world.
To do this though requires us to continue to upskill our agencies to include strategic investment and integration of content, social, data and brand experience expertise, all of which are crucial to achieve impact in today’s media world. We need to constantly innovate and pivot on a near daily basis. This challenge asks us to evolve deeply the ways we work, while we maintain the heart of our work – the strategic and deliberate management of reputation and the insertion of relevant content into the cultural ethos to drive a desired outcome. The future for agencies is promised to no one, so it is for us to earn and own it.
James Wright, CEO, Red Havas and Global Chairman, Havas PR Global Collective