Agencies in small markets must do more… and faster!

PR-consultants will quickly be required to have certified skills across all channels.

Nearly 12 months on since the Holmes Report’s first global communications report, it’s interesting to reflect on the executive summary: “Corporate communications executives around the world believe both they and their public relations agency partners will be expected to deliver more—more strategy, more content, more channels, more creativity and more measurement—over the next five years. But questions remain over the industry’s ability to attract the right talent, adapt to new technologies and increase the level of investment required to capitalize on these opportunities”. Reading these comments again with the benefit of hindsight it’s evident that the analysis was spot on! However; the change is not going to take five years, it’s happening much faster. In small markets like Norway clients are starting to demand full-service across owned, earned and paid, and clear measurement of the impact agencies deliver in all parts of the sales journey. To succeed every agency must find new kinds of talent, and recruit from industries and places they’ve never done before.

Big bite for small slice

So called smaller markets around the world are used to being left with the smallest piece of the cake when budgets are divided. It’s not hard to understand that investments are directed to the bigger markets where the business potential maybe much bigger. This has left us with having to juggle 5-10 clients each, possess the ability to deliver great results with few resources, and have archaeological talent to dig up budgets in the most unlikely places across our client’s many lines of business. The scary development now is that these budget pockets are being removed at an alarming pace, and many non-HQ territories are quickly being reduced to sales offices where key functions like marketing and HR are often completely removed, with the client asking us to report into central functions based in Bratislava, Dublin or Tallinn. For our local clients the situation is even worse. They are expected to deliver faster and achieve more with less. The new norm is that the month after Christmas is now  ‘Corporate detox, dry January’ with budget decreases, ROI reviews and cost-cutting exercises.

Digitalization and automation

Digitalization and technology are creating seismic changes at a pace never seen before. The advantage is that we can access fantastic new technology quicker and cheaper, and we don’t need to contact NASA to find rocket scientists to help us deliver the future of marketing and sales. We are moving towards full service digital marketing communications, and have a range of new tools which allow us to become a more credible and mission critical services provider across every channel. This is great news for our clients who can spend less time meeting niche-agencies and rather invest in more service-oriented agency approaches from vendors that have SLA’s to ensure that the marketing director can devote more time to strategy and top-level business support. To be a full-service provider we relentlessly try to attract experts on Google and inbound marketing, but also ensure that our traditional PR consultants acquire new skills on solutions and platforms like Facebook Advertising, various Google-tools for insight and advertising, WordPress and marketing automation software like Hubspot. We also have to ensure that our clients invest in native advertising as opposed to annoying banner ads.

Influence the most influential

Global agencies should look to the small markets to learn how fast we need to change our businesses. We are adapting to fundamental changes in the media landscape, and find ourselves less dependent on journalists. Today it is very challenging to get even small mentions for a product announcement. In world with more and more ‘copy & paste’, we need to reach the key journalists that others look to – and we need to influence them with our local subject matter experts. By engaging the most influential journalists with locally relevant stories we increase the chances for good traction on each story, since more editorial content is shared and re-used across newspapers that used to be fierce competitors. We replace the traditional press release with more credible content that not only makes it easier to get coverage, but also which leads to content that can be re-used in any other communication channels. We’ve seen ourselves that when we’ve adopted this approach with large clients we’ve increased both volume and quality of coverage.

The stories “you didn’t see coming”

We have seen several examples of subject matter experts at our clients that share content with us that is truly remarkable, and has ensured coverage in the biggest newspapers – as well as front page stories leading business magazines and earned speaking opportunities. When our customer’s staff understand and even better see what pieces of news are interesting, it is much easier to find the compelling stories that can be used and re-used across national, local, and trade media. We advise our clients to use budgets smarter and take strong positions across owned, earned and paid – with the website as a hub for all marketing communications, preferably as a value add resource center. Content marketing to increase press coverage is easiest to achieve when staff understand why communication is vital to increasing sales and winning market shares. For this, you need external perspectives, and content must be designed for the target group and contain as little of the ‘internal language’ as possible.

10 ways to excel

To be successful we need to:

  • Engage staff, train them in storytelling. Make them confident and contributors to the business
  • Have a strategic plan for how to influence each target group
  • Develop content and distribution plans – re-use/localize international content as much as possible – that means more than translating it!
  • Create content that is credible and trustworthy – solutions that solves problems
  • Put in place direct communications channels between subject matter experts and the peer target group
  • Implement new digital tools for inbound marketing
  • Have a strategy for reuse from owned to earned. Engage third party influencers that can give credibility to our messages, strategically influence less, but more influential journalists
  • Tie our deliveries up to your website as hub for all communications – ensuring that media and other target groups find answers on your website (through Google)
  • Ensure that we update our news section frequently, and several times per week
  • Put in best of breed measurement tools for owned, earned and paid

By using more subject matter experts we ensure that we deliver stories that better resonate with the market, we strengthen employer brands, deliver better return on investment from PR and marketing, and we get more and better coverage.  And nothing is more important than measurement and demonstrating ability to exceed KPI’s. A Google-found quote from Socrates (not the footballer) exemplifies the road ahead when venturing on new paths to attract and retain staff and customers: “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new”.


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