“DO THE BEST THAT YOU CAN UNTIL YOU KNOW BETTER. THEN, WHEN YOU KNOW BETTER, DO BETTER.”

Maya Angelou

I love this quote as I have utilized it as a guiding principle in my debut year proudly serving as President of the PR Council (PRC). The start of my service was marked by a phase of listening to our members; and from that point I began to formulate strategies to drive forward in a new direction.

It’s been a very productive year. We have enjoyed well-attended Member networking events where Members engaged in industry initiatives with plenty of vigorous discussion. I have been pleased to have established two new Member communities: Learning & Development, and Digital & Social. We have also conducted leading edge, proprietary research that focused on how agencies can increase profitability in the digital age. Significant steps have been taken by the PRC within the important issue of diversity & inclusion; through publishing our new resource guide and helping provide education sessions.  And finally, it was another year of successfully executing our cornerstone “Critical Issues Forum” and “Diversity Distinction Awards”.

Click here to see the PRC’s 2016 end-of-year infographic.

My observation after these first 12 months is that I’m confident we have a solid community of agencies practicing PR.  Our industry is strong and well positioned for future opportunities.  However, in order to really leap beyond where we are today, I believe we must move and move forcefully into the marketing arena beyond merely communications.  While communications will always be at our core, and remain the principal aspect of our offer, we must incorporate broader aspects of “marketing”, to fully realize greater leadership within the integrated agency mix.

I have also taken a number of lessons from the recent national election. As a PR practitioner (not a political scientist) it was clear that one of the political parties was doing a lot of talking to themselves, ie, “their own base,” and maybe not moving swiftly enough to convert others.  This is something we should be wary of within our own industry.  Are we too inward looking?

If you follow one of our industry trade publications, that leader will tell you, from recent global research, that the CMO’s budget is poised to grow 4-5% each year, for the balance of the decade.  With that, the CCO’s budget will grow only 1-2%.  So where is our PR agency growth going to come from?  We must be able to not only speak to our communications clients but also continue to earn the respect of the marketing clients, and, with that, comes a new set of skills and competencies.

In 2017, it would be great to see our agency community:

  • adapt a new marketing vernacular and speak of metrics beyond impressions (please don’t say that we already do this, as I judged three award competitions in the last three months and there are a lot of agencies still only focused on the impressions metric)
  • become even more aggressive when it comes to innovating with new technologies and tech platforms; other parts of the marketing mix are doing so, and some pundits argue they are doing so much quicker than we are
  • truly incorporate data, and the language that accompanies it, into our everyday counselling
  • build greater links to, and awareness among, the CMO’s

I believe these are some of the topics the PRC should tackle in 2017.  All of this works toward our agency community thriving within the marketing mix, and as part of the integrated agency team. We must focus our energies on educating others; we must illustrate clearly how ‘earned’ is essential to their overall marketing plan, and underscore that it is in our DNA. We must be wary of being too inward-focused as an industry. To succeed, we must make step-changes to our agency workforce, and modify the way we ‘show up’ and evolve our engagement with our clients.

I continue to be truly impressed with the amazing leaders of our agencies.  I have witnessed firsthand senior PR professionals deeply committed with outstanding work, ensuring our industry thrives. Let’s forge together and emerge out of the echo chamber, and push our community to new levels in 2017 and beyond.

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