The PR agency in 2020

Posted on: May 15, 2007

The future of the public relations consultancy was one of the major discussions at the UK Public Relations Consultants Association’s annual conference in London (May 15). Titled ‘Agency 20:20’, a panel of experts surveyed some of the influences that may shape the consultancy business in 12 to 15 years time.

The panel, chaired by PRCA chairman Richard Houghton, included Julian Cacchioli of Galileo Travelport, Jo Ellen Zumberge of MS&L, Trevor Morris of Westminster University and Danny Rogers, editor of PR Week. Among their views were:

– Julian Cacchioli, from a client perspective, said PR services have to be positioned as consultancy and not agency. “Consultancies need to help us where we can’t do the job ourselves”. He added that media relations is becoming a commodity and an agency task. Consultancies can add value by providing advice on strategy, messaging, CSR and “information we don’t have.”

– Jo Ellen Zumberge, wearing an international consultancy’s hat, made a case that the new technologies have changed the nature of the communicative relationship – from mass communication to one-to-one, from press relations to viral messaging, and to develop credibility by conversation. This was leading consultancies towards a more flexible approach in delivery of PR services.

– Danny Rogers, the journalist, was the most conservative of the four panelists because he considered that the PR agency (not consultancy) structure would be similar to today. There won’t be a single model as the diversity of operations will continue. Speed of communication will, however, have shaped many changes in the services with greater emphasis on strategy.

– Trevor Morris, former consultancy boss-turned-academic, nominated marketing PR as the service that will change most dramatically as it will become more of a price-driven commodity than at present. This will be brought about by the switch to online presentation of information. He also noted the decline in the staffing of major advertising agencies (e.g. JWT London dropping from 1000 30 years ago to 200 now) and tipped a similar impact on consultancy staffing.

– Evaluation will become a constant factor, said Jo Ellen and Trevor, because data from online traffic would offer constant benchmarking and give “hard statistics”.

So from this hour-long discussion, some of the characteristics of the PR consultancy in 2020 could be:

  • Greater focus on high value-add services
  • Expertise on conversation creation
  • Smaller staff numbers, with greater depth of expertise
  • Very flexible operations; many different organisational structures
  • Data-driven instant, continuous evaluation

That’s the snapshot from a preliminary discussion. What’s your view?


1 Response to "The PR agency in 2020"

2020 is far too long. Can anyone imagine what channels for communication will be popular in 2010?
How will personal interaction work from home/the coffee shop/studio at 50meg broadband (that’s is ten times faster than current rates) in 2010.
In 2020 can we expect an agency guilty of hype, spin, bling or insider information distribution being flung to the social media like so much meat to the lions?

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