The slightly opportunist stance of GolinHarris in announcing its new, flatter agency structure shouldn’t obscure the fact that PR and marketing services are undergoing a major sea-change at the hands of social media and the ongoing online revolution.
Who cares how a PR agency organises itself? Even its clients shouldn’t be too concerned – providing the end result is a better service. We can only assume that something along those lines was behind the GH announcement!
Of course, revolutions spark some big changes. Some would argue that it’s inevitable PR agencies will wrestle with their own internal response to the rise of social media, and everything else that goes with consumers and clients grabbing the marketing initiative.
Others would say that, ultimately, agencies will have no choice but to respond in the most optimal ways available. Juggling with staffing structures, departmental responsibilities and individual skillsets is something that any responsible and responsive service sector consultancy will do (or should do) as a matter of course.
In the PR industry, change has never been as dramatic or as sustained as it has been over recent years. With change comes opportunity, especially for the fleet of foot. It could be argued that publicly announcing just how ‘fleet’ you really are is a shrewd new-business move calculated to attract clients who may feel they’re on the receiving end of some serious inertia as far as their existing agency is concerned!
Being seen to be pro-active will always contribute to PR success. Responding to the ways clients and markets can be reached by co-ordinating social and digital media with ‘traditional’ PR skills is a sensible route to take when your competitors may be struggling to understand what is happening in their hitherto stable world.
And yet, making changes in response to market needs by shifting accountability, job labels or responsibilities may be too premature when the full implications of ultra-new media are still throbbing their way through every marketing channel.
Whilst it’s probably better that even an embryonic response is better than no response to the demands of market complexity in an ever-shrinking global village, there’s a danger that the diversity of recent reaction among some of the bigger PR agencies will, in the end, be self-defeating.