The PR Agency of the Future

12.13.2013 | Jennifer Gehrt

Yesterday I was reading PR Week’s 15th anniversary issue and came across an article entitled “What will a PR agency look like in 15 years?” It was a compilation of comments about the future from some of today’s industry leaders: Gail Heimann, president of Weber Shandwick; Kim Hunter, president and CEO, Lagrant Communications; and Patrick Sandusky, chief communications and public affairs office with the US Olympic Committee, among others.

The article got me daydreaming about 2028. The United Nation has forecast that India will be the worlds’ most populous nation, scientists tell us a one-mile-wide asteroid will pass close to earth, and maybe we will all be driving electric cars. In terms of public relations, analysts project that the industry will grow. According to PR Week, the annual spend on public relations and word-of-mouth marketing services in the U.S. will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 14 percent between 2010 and 2015.

However, over the size of the industry, I am more curious about what the agency of the future will look like. What types of services will agencies offer? How will the mix of services differ in small, medium and large agencies? What will the talent pool look like?

Gail Heimann with Weber Shandwick thinks, “PR organizations will meet the need for true global activation and team flexibility by operating 24 hours a day, enabling people to work at whatever set of hours suits the needs of their clients and their own lifestyles.”

While I agree with Gail’s statement, I would be surprised, and frankly, disappointed, if it took us 15 years to get to true global activation and team flexibility. With the advancement of technology, I think firms are on the cusp of better global collaboration, activation and flexibility in the near future.

Perhaps I think this future is closer because of Communiqué PR’s own advancement in the past year with Smartsheet. Today, we are using Smartsheet’s cloud-based collaboration technology and it is transforming how we work. How we interact with partners, co-workers and clients has drastically changed in our past year using this tool. We use the intuitive project management tool to share information in real-time with our international PR partners, including agencies in the U.K., Germany and South Africa. The tool has also helped us more effectively leverage a talented team of freelancers in multiple states.

Collaborating with overseas partners or freelancers in our pre-Smartsheet era was arduous. It involved a lot of sorting through email to track information. With freelancers, we were swapping Excel spreadsheets to track the hours they were working. Now, they enter the information directly into Smartsheet and we can access it in real time. We never have to search email for the file. The information is in the cloud and accessible from our desktop PC, home PC, tablet or mobile phone.

Smartsheet is not the only solution. There are myriad web apps and services popping up that are changing how we accomplish tasks, and allowing us to work with the most talented people regardless of their location. Clearly, it is hard (if not impossible) to predict or conceptualize the long-term impact these new tools will have on the agency of the future. However, I believe we will see technology like Smartsheet help the agency of the future improve workflows, priority setting and organizational agility – and I think this future is closer than we think.

Finally, if in the next 10 or 15 years health care coverage becomes more affordable to individuals, I think more people will want to work in the PR industry on a part-time freelance basis. Collaboration tools will allow firms to tap the freelance people with the right experience to join account teams and seamlessly add value.

For more on this topic, please check out the following articles:

What do you think the future will bring for PR firms? Please share your comments, and bookmark this page so you can re-read it on Jan. 1, 2028.


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Filed under: COMMUNIQUÉ PR, INDUSTRY, PR trends

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