(This post first appeared on the CIPR Conversation site.)
Someone showed me the slide deck for a new business pitch from a very well respected PR firm this week.
The thing that surprised me was that other than one token slide about SEO (which clearly betrayed a lack of understanding of the subject) and a reference to blogging, the kernel of the proposition boiled down to writing press releases, pitching stories to journalists, and organising press meetings. Social Media? What’s that? (I was also bemused that nearly a quarter of the budget was going to be allocated to “account management” – even though there was absolutely no detail as to what that actually meant or entailed for the prospective client).
This proposal could have been written 30 years ago – maybe even longer.
But is that necessarily a bad thing?
On the plus side, the agency concerned is clearly doing well (as attested by their recent financial performance). And if this pitch proposal is representative of their approach, then it would seem there are plenty of client companies out there still happy to consider this kind of traditional PR approach.
So are skeptics right to argue that they don’t need to be paying attention to the calls from people like me to invest more in new skills based around social media, SEO and analytics?
I think the honest answer is: no.
For a start, the agency above are clearly an exception not the rule – certainly in the sense of continuing to be profitable by ostensibly selling the old wine of traditional media relations in a new bottle (with a thin digital label). The more prevalent message I hear from the world of PR consultancy is that clients are shying away from media relations-only solutions – or at the very least, they aren’t prepared to pay as much for pure press relations as they might have done in the past. Digital expertise and integration is needed now – and the demands on PR consultancies and in-house teams will only get ever greater.
Perhaps some in PR are suffering from what psychologists call hyperbolic discounting: taking what you see as the sure thing in the present (media relations) over the caliginous prospect some day far away (biting the bullet on digital). Or perhaps the affliction is “present bias” – being unable to grasp what you (your clients) want will change over time, and what you (your clients) want now isn’t the same thing as what you (your clients) will want later.
Either way, I strongly suspect that the kind of new business slide deck I saw this week doesn’t have as long a shelf life as some might think (or want).
Have a hyperbolic weekend.
Andrew Bruce Smith and The Conversation team
Please note, this Conversation Roundup is written in my own capacity.
I am not a spokesperson for the CIPR.