Our role as public relations agencies is to generate news about our clients for the media to publish, but more and more we find ourselves as protagonists in the news. No sooner have we digested the news about the merger of Burson-Marsteller and Cohn & Wolfe, two of the largest firms in the sector, then we hear that Edelman, the leader of the sector, has hired one of the most awarded publicists (among 600 creatives), or that Weber Shandwick has created a super division that groups all its digital competitions. Not to mention the constant rumour of mergers and acquisitions among companies in the sector, together with the classic going back and forth of the big accounts.
What is happening in the PR sector that can explain why there is so much movement? As ever, our market is changing at a staggering speed which if we don’t adapt how we work, we run the risk of being left behind. That is why we choose the transformation of public relations agencies as one of the trends of 2019.
What is changing in PR?
Canela is a relatively young public relations agency, we’ve just celebrated our thirteenth anniversary. But the reality is that this sector has changed so much in the last decade that it looks nothing like it did when our agency was created. At that time press dossiers were still printed and journalists used to attend the calls.
However, the changes we are referring to are much more profound:
- Much more than media relations. Brands do not currently need an agency to interact with the media; they need an agency to manage all their communication in the different channels: offline media, online media, advertising, social networks, influencers, events… The work with journalists is still important, but the work we do today encompasses a much broader set of players.
- Much more competition everywhere. In the United States there are over 12,000 PR firms, according to Forbes. In Spain nobody has counted them all up, but there are several hundreds, or thousands if we include freelance professionals. These plus the other types of companies with which we compete in some aspects of communication, such as advertising agencies, SEO agencies, inbound marketing agencies… Nowadays, if you see a press release on the Internet, it is highly likely that it has been distributed by a search engine positioning company and not by a communication agency.
- A broader range of professional profiles. Previously communication consultants worked mostly in communication agencies. Now we can find designers, editors, creatives, multimedia editors, SEO / SEM experts, software developers and even data scientists. And these professionals no longer work for a specific client or department, instead they participate in different projects for different accounts, and often for more than one territorial office of the same agency.
We know, things have changed so much in recent years, and that’s why we have to evolve. But… what exactly are we doing to adapt to all these changes?
How to adapt to the new reality in PR agencies
Our admired Elsa Punset says that “crises enhance evolution and changes that which at one point seemed difficult or impossible can occur relatively quickly.” This is what is happening in the PR sector and explains all those strategic movements we spoke about at the beginning and which are visible in most agencies.
In Canela we are very aware of this fact and, for that reason, in recent years we have made an important effort to adapt to the new market reality. For example, to expand the catalogue of services we offer to customers, last year we launched a division of creativity and graphic design, as it is a service that is often requested. In order to differentiate ourselves from the competition, we have reorganized into four specialties (B2B, Consumer Technology, Digital and Lifestyle) which allow us to combine all the resources and knowledge that a client may require in any of these segments.
We have removed ourselves from our comfort zone by incorporating accounts in new segments, such as KONE (elevators), Cooltra (electric mobility), or Tado° (home automation). Finally, we are alert to the application of new technologies in our activity (from Big Data to Artificial Intelligence) and we have a diverse human team that enriches our culture as a company.
These are just some of the ways that we are adapting to the transformation of public relations.