Page 34 - AdNews April 2020
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“Due to the nature of PR (you can turn it on or off very quickly), resourcing a business is always going to be challenging because clients’ budgets change,” she says. “PR is often one of the last channels to be briefed and funded, so it is impacted when priorities shift.”
Creative agency dollars
Leilani Abels, founder of inde- pendent agency Thrive PR, says there’s greater investment today in PR and she’s increasingly finding herself at meetings with clients who have brought along their advertising agency.
“It’s definitely gone up the ranks relative to where it sits in the broader marketing mix. That’s a great place to be if you’re sitting in the comms space like us,” she says.
“The service-offering that falls under the PR umbrella has expanded and diversified. That means there’s greater demand, and greater investment. Demand is increasing also by category.
“We talk about ourselves being a ‘corpsumer’ agency, where we have an area of the business that’s all around corporate comms, thought leadership. On the flip side of that coin is all of your big brands, con- sumer work. And what traditionally happens is you would have special- ist agencies either doing all corpo- rate or all consumer. At Thrive, we built our business model to take advantage of growth in both.
“Big brands, that might have tra- ditionally used two or three agencies from a PR perspective, are spending more with us because we’re deliver- ing this corpsumer model.”
Abels also sees demand for con- tent. “The marketing dollars that might have traditionally been spent with a creative advertising agency are now going to us,” she says.
“The smart marketers will say, ‘Okay, here’s the budget,’ and allow us to look at how can we use some of that traditional media spend to do media partnerships that are part paid content? How can we also use some of that money from a content-production perspective?’
“That content piece is certainly on the rise and the PR people are now the ones who are being
considered as quality producers of that content. We’re producing these visual storytelling tools that traditionally might have only sat in earned, but now the marketeers are allowing us to also play in the owned and the paid media space.”
That’s where PR agencies are adding value.
“It could be a branded content that might fit as part of a paid media partnership, it might be producing content for websites, or producing content for internal comms,” says Abels. Clients are saying: “Okay, how can you build out the tentacles of that content so we can use it across our own channels?”
“We’ve only had content production internally for the past five years, and the past three years as specialised services,” she says. “The larger-size PR agencies will have digital specialists internally. We’ve got graphic designers, videographers, photographers and content producers who aren’t doing traditional PR but are powering PR storytelling. They are helping us add value to the way we produce content for clients.
“We are diversifying the workforce relative to the different types of skills we’re hiring into the business. And at the same time we’re upskilling because of the way the media landscape has changed.
“Some of that talent would have sat traditionally in a digital marketing agency or in an ad agency. And now they’ll sit in a PR agenc. Some PR agencies will have a head of creative, which traditionally is an advertising agency resource.
“The marketers are saying — and this has only changed in the last five years — ‘We want the best idea, and we don’t care which agency that great idea comes from.’ The PR people have stood up to that challenge.”
The small players are also seeing growth. Amanda Lacey runs POPCOM, a standalone communications consultancy with a staff of three. “The margin is good,” she says. “I’ve made a choice to be more specialist and am able to run a pretty lean ship.”
Lacey doesn’t try to tackle areas she’s not an expert in, such as social media or video campaigns. “I’d rather align with another agency which

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