Renee Wilson
PR Council

“Strange fascination, fascinating me; Changes are taking the pace I’m going through…” David Bowie

It may seem like I write a lot about changes in our industry; but in my role, I have the opportunity to see these changes happening every day and communicate them back to you. Last month, we conducted our second CMO Advisory Breakfast from the windy city of Chicago.  It was a great discussion with PRC members and CMO/Marketing clients a like.  If you recall, we started this initiative to learn more about how the marketing clients were seeing the transformation in the marketplace so we could ensure the work we are doing for our CCO and PR clients best complemented them, and in some cases the CMOs were becoming our clients as well.

It was a lively discussion (as to be expected) with a combination of B2B and Consumer clients.  One thing to note is how much the B2B clients are relying on their PR agencies to take the lead on strategy, narrative writing and content development.  I say that because the consumer clients at our event are still using a variety of sources (advertising agencies, branding agencies, digital agencies, consultants, etc.) to do the same tasks.

Some Key Take-Away’s the PR Agency Community Needs to Know (even if you don’t agree, these were communicated by clients):

  1. Sometimes, PR agencies can come across as too linear and need to demonstrate more thinking that shows we can overcome obstacles — especially in helping to craft stories.
  2. PR firms could benefit from putting even more insights into a pitch.
  3. Don’t underestimate how many people out there are ‘mailing it in;’ all agencies (of all types) need to pick up the phone more and build ‘live’ relationships; get to know the CMO and other members of the C-Suite.
  4. Data is only as good as the insight it produces.
  5. If the creative message and the strategy aren’t right, you lose.
  6. Clients would like to see more strategic planners in PR firms.
  7. The skill set of the 21st Century is the ability to ‘focus.’
  8. CMOs are focused on growth but more than just market share; they are after category growth.
  9. “Please listen. Don’t just hear. Stop using my jargon so that I think you know what you are talking about.”
  10. People in creative roles need to be more ‘externally focused’.
  11. Adam Grant said to ‘kill brainstorming…..the loudest people in the room win the idea….”
  12. Some do not believe CSR grows revenue. While CMOs can be supportive of it, if it doesn’t help grow revenue they are not as interested.  Their job is to grow revenue.

As I’ve said before, I realize that a lot of agency revenues are coming from corporate communications, PR, public affairs and via crisis situations combined. However, the CMO function is changing too and they need our help as well.  They are growing in interest in what we do, and wanting to understand who does it best.  We think they know it is us, but I’m telling you – that is not always the case.  Make yourself known to all clients of the C-Suite as it’s not a given anymore that we are the agencies that do ‘earned.’  (I realize that may seem so strange.)

You can expect to see more engagement from the PRC with this client group next year, as well as with those who purchase within the client enterprises.  We need to face these changes and embrace them.

To read more discussion points from our CMO Advisory Breakfast, please visit here.

Turn and face the strange