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Avoid no-mans-land in the great marketing land-grab

10th December 2014


I believe there’s a danger lurking in the shadows of the consumer PR world and it’s called Marketing-No-Man’s-Land. The dark place that lies between effective integrated communications and the traditional PR space of earned media.

Next year could be the year of the big shakedown where clients get fed up fighting your corner in the great marketing land grab and want to see every agency’s true metal.

A good litmus test might be this… you’re in marketing-no-man’s-land if in 2014 most of your campaigns included an expensive short film, but at no point did you buy media, or (real) influencer eyeballs to support it.  If that’s the case, no longer is your film a piece of important brand collateral, it’s just a vanity project for you and your PR client. After all… in a single day more video content is uploaded to Youtube than the total output of the BBC in its entire history.

The truth is there are too many consumer PR agencies out there that don’t have the skills to know what to do with a piece of rich digital content, but they go on producing it anyway. They don’t know how to add, manage and measure the rocket fuel to make it fly; they don’t know how to optimize it for mobile, and they don’t know how mobile marketing networks work.

So PR agencies that are trying to be integrated marketing agencies, it’s time to fess-up and decide what you want to be. Do you want to be producers of rich content and expert content marketers?  Do you want to be an earned media agency where you outsource content marketing? Or do you want to be both, a true integrated comms agency? Because I believe 2015 will no longer tolerate the pretenders out there.

It might be worth remembering that (1) there’s no great shame in paying to support your content; in fact hoping and praying a piece of expensive content will go viral is a mugs’ game; (2) there is and will always be a great comfort in paying for certainty, particularly when media is so complex and crowded; and (3) the digital and social media giants are forced into adopting advertising models and have no choice but to build their businesses around this. If they didn’t make advertising a ‘must buy’ on their platforms, they’d lose.

Of course, there’ll always be a huge importance placed by brands on earned media and influence.  The problem is that as the great marketing land-grab is being fought, the no-man’s-land that is developing between PR and advertising is more likely to be filled with PR agencies pretending to know about content marketing, than ad agencies setting up earned media teams. It’s not hard to figure out where that will lead.

In fact, too much integrated thinking bullsh*t from PR firms without the content marketing skills to back it up leads to an apologetic and overly grateful attitude, which leads to poor negotiation of fees, which undervalues your contribution, which harms the industry.

Here are my Top 10 Tips for consumer PR agencies in 2015.

1. Decide what you want to be and what it is you deliver as an agency.  Stop pretending to be something you’re not.

2. Continue to take full ownership of content you create as part of your campaigns, but know when to outsource its marketing.

3. Build science and certainty into your digital campaigns; hoping and praying your film will achieve viral-like numbers is a mugs’ game.

4. Understand that an integrated agency isn’t a PR agency and adopt a model that attracts the analytical and marketing skills required.

5. Don’t be afraid to take a chance on someone from the ad world to create a step change for your agency, if that’s the direction you’re heading.

6. Realise that ad agencies and media buyers still weald massive influence over brands and this isn’t likely to change anytime soon.

7. Be confident and honest in what you can and can’t deliver as part of your creative campaign – it’s the best way to earn credibility, retain staff and increase profitability for your agency.

8. Don’t get caught up in your clients’ internal politics, be clear on what it is you can deliver for them and where you fit.

9. Work with your clients on the Big Brief and the Small Brief. Ask them to write down how they want you to fit into the bigger picture as an agency; expect clear project briefs that relate to this.

10. Once you’ve said goodbye to marketing no-man’s-land, increase your hourly rates and be more bullish in charging for over-servicing.

Matt Wood, PR Agency Business Consultant



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