It’s hard being different

It’s hard being different. It’s hard not to take the easy path.

It’s hard to see other agencies win business that you know will fail. It’s hard to compromise when you know you are right. These are the emotions that I have certainly experienced over the last few years since we re-engineered our approach to ‘PR’ and embraced a more modern way of constructing campaigns.

They say that you get the clients you deserve and I am a big believer in that adage. Since we adopted a different outlook about what PR looks like, we have seen changes in our client base. Out have gone the more publicity, print focused clients, to be replaced by clients who are more open minded and keen to learn about the media landscape in which they find themselves.

Just this week I had to turn down a bit of business from a toy company that wanted to reach 6 to 8 year old boys by creating a stunt for the national press. The company wasn’t keen to reach parents but to reach the boys directly. They wanted a big stunt idea to generate print coverage for an Augmented Reality game. I set out the approach for them via an influencer and targeted pre roll campaign but it fell on deaf ears. Instead they found an agency that will give them the stunt they want.

The reality is that some audiences are now tasked with reaching are becoming very hard to engage with via earned media – the safe haven of many a PR professional. Generation Z is to be found hanging out in messenger apps, following influencers or on media platforms that demand payment for targeted engagement. As PR people we can either give up or embrace the new world order that says you need a ‘blended’ approach.

Our ‘blended’ approach comes via the PESO model which was devised by Gini Dietrich and has become a planning tool for our client campaigns. To effectively use the PESO model though you do need a different mix of people (or access to people) within your PR agency than you would have worked with before. This can be a testing but exciting time, as you have to learn to talk a completely different language and constantly be looking to learn new tricks of our trade.

One of the key improvements that we have made is the improvement in the measurement and evaluation of the work we are doing. Long gone are the AVE’s and instead we have people that have been Google trained (we are now a Google Partner agency) to interpret Google Analytics to their exam standard. Occupying the same room where half the room have studied Mathematics at University is quite a change but also a refreshing one. Understanding how to interpret data will only become more important.

This really hasn’t been easy for someone like me who has now clocked up 20 years in PR but I personally don’t see an alternative. As an agency we are now running lots of native advertising campaigns, paid social, digital retargeting, SEO and paid search work – none of which I would have understood a few years ago but which will increasingly form the bedrock of the work we do.

The innovation and the learning is what keep me excited. There are plenty of PR agencies churning out the same proposals that were being written when I started my own career but their days will be numbered. A younger set of brand managers and clients are now coming through who have a completely different view on the world and we need to be ready for them.

Guest blog post by Jim Hawker, Co-Founder and Director, Threepipe