Shift Happens


What came first? Change in the way humans live, buy and share information, or was it new technology that disrupted life as usual?

Either way, shift happens. For the fast and flexible, that shift is an exciting opportunity; for the slow and established, it is a scary proposition.

I have been given the opportunity to build a new agency under a new holding company during the greatest shift in the marketing communications industry that I can remember. Along with my team, we have decided that it is time to disrupt a system and an industry that can do better. We are experienced agency folks who know what works and what doesn’t and we believe two critical areas are ripe for change: the relationship and how data informs the way we work.

The relationship is the most important aspect of building success between client and agency. A more modern spin on a successful relationship — even when one partner is paying — is based on mutual trust and sharing, period. In other words, it’s not only about the client and it’s not only about the agency. The magic happens in the middle, where respect, culture and most importantly, sharing of information happens.

So, what do we mean by sharing of information? We work in the age of big data, data mining and data sharing. We must connect more information than ever before to provide insights that help develop business solutions with a higher certainty of outcomes.

This is no easy task.

We can’t make it up and we can’t fake it.

Often public relations is brought in to develop messaging, identify channels or work to place stories among influencers and media. However, to successfully move forward with those steps, there is work that needs to be done first. It starts with asking WHY we are doing it. What is the business goal? Once that is clear, we can build a hypothesis that can be proved or disproved by analyzing customer data and interaction.

Until recently, measuring agency success of PR programs has been elusive. Even with metrics in place, PR was not always solving the business problem, and even if it was, it couldn’t get the credit. Our industry needs a new mindset along with new skill sets to harness data; this is true for agency and in-house communications departments alike.

Ultimately, effective use of data can move the PR industry from guessing to knowing. We call it predictive communications, and it can only happen in a true partnership where information — both inside and outside the company — is shared, along with a carefully ordered road map that sets the stage for success. It is a new order that puts communications at the table earlier in the process.

Without the clear identification of business goals and analyzing customer data from both inside and outside the organization, communicators may not be solving the right problem, and consequently, unsuccessful in making a measurable difference. As shift happens, the client-agency partnership needs a new mindset about the role of its communications counsel and how it will harness and share data. #modernagency

This blog post also appears on Medium