In the current state of political and economic flux, agency leaders would be forgiven for shelving growth plans whilst the terms of Brexit are thrashed out.
But a wait-and-see strategy may prove less risk-averse than expected.
Agencies with the confidence and vision to prioritise strategic growth, even amidst the political maelstrom, will be best placed to respond when the uncertainty clears and will also see market challenges as a trigger to implement much needed efficiencies.
Making difficult decisions about how to allocate resources, which business development opportunities to pursue and which partners to work with, may mean short-term sacrifices, but more than likely lead to long-term success.
Whilst agencies waiting for confidence to return risk being left behind, competition amongst the more progressive will only increase. All the more reason, then, to analyse how the changing conditions are affecting business and plan accordingly.
How to grow
There are various ways agencies can grow strategically, now, and spread any potential risk. One avenue might be to establish presence and revenue streams in other key territories, perhaps by opening an office or by developing strategic partnerships with like-minded organisations. Access to overseas business is always beneficial, but partnerships often bring additional, softer benefits for employees, such as work exchange schemes, training and mentoring, all of which adds value and helps to define culture and identity.
Likewise, agencies may feel now is the right time to prioritise regional expansion in the UK, identifying the exciting pockets of growth and talent in the creative industries that offer growth opportunities, challenge current thinking and blend new ideas with their existing business.
Time is right
These are long-term, strategic decisions, but there is no better time to make them. Yes, the stakes are high but get it right and the competitive advantage and benefits for employees and clients alike are potentially huge.
Another focus for strategic growth should be placing greater scrutiny on the analysis of value we provide to clients and thereby unlocking extra layers of work. New clients and exciting new partnerships are great but existing client partners must always be the absolute priority, particularly in uncertain times.
We have been marking our own homework for too long – agencies need to provide transparent, objective, data-led analysis of coverage, its reach, impact and relevance then, crucially, turn that into insights which inform the PR strategy and speak directly to the client’s business objectives. Unless clients feel we understand their world and are part of their team, there is no chance of unlocking further work and taking that relationship to the next level. Honesty in analysing impact is crucial in that process.
Finally, now is the perfect time to redouble efforts to recruit the right people, with the right talent, skills and ethos to take the agency forward in the long term. Nothing sharpens the elevator pitch better than a series of interviews. Quite rightly, astute candidates want to understand an agency’s culture and vision for growth; if the picture isn’t clear, that will quickly become apparent, so it’s all part of the same process of proactive growth during a period of uncertainty.
Written by Stuart Skinner, divisional managing director of PR agency The PHA Group
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