Many in the advertising and public relations industry are now familiar with the manifesto “Content is King.” As several professionals pointed out at the 2012 PRSSA National Conference, if content is king, then community is queen. However, what many forget is that their own agencies are a part of this community, not just as agencies but also as clients. Agencies must also establish their position in this competitive realm. The importance of community applies to agencies themselves just as it does for their clients in the business community. Too often agencies allow their own content to suffer as a result of concentrated efforts on clients; while this practice is noble, neglecting to build or maintain an agency’s position in the field is just as harmful as allowing the same to happen to an agency’s clients.
Content and community are both vital and inseparable, for both clients and agencies. Public relations professionals’ skills are perfectly tailored to understand and leverage this reality for the benefit of their respective organizations and agencies. Agencies, like their clients, must assert and maintain their positions in the greater advertising/public relations realm.
As Paul Roetzer of PR 20/20 argues in The Marketing Agency Blueprint, agencies are using a myriad of platforms to network with current and potential clients “in more meaningful and effective ways” than in the past. Rather than simply disseminating one-way messages to an unknown public, businesses are learning to utilize the true nature of social media like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and even blogs to engage in two-way communication with those businesses’ audiences. In this manner, businesses gain more in-depth insight into their audiences, and those audiences connect in more meaningful ways with the brands, increasing brand loyalty.
By practicing in such a manner, the agencies “are creating value, while demonstrating their expertise and growing their businesses.” Roetzer calls such action “inbound marketing,” which builds loyalty and can lead to higher retention rates as well as increased profit margins. Director of Marketing at Marketo Maria Pergolino adds that such content between businesses can improve search rankings, conversion rates, and lead generation; furthermore, content generation like blog posts “is a powerful way to position [a] brand in front of a new audience” as an authority. Similar to Roetzer, Pergolino also stresses the primary function of such inbound marketing: building trust, and thereby relationships, with the community at large and potential publics. Which such consensus in the industry about the vast benefits of so-called inbound marketing, agencies cannot neglect the importance of their own digital vitality.
The industry’s emphasis on personal branding further emphasizes this importance. Agencies, like individuals, have their own “brand” to develop, in addition to the branding work they may do for clients. Employees’ personal branding efforts influence the brand of their agency. Agencies may and should view themselves from a similar perspective as individual professionals building their own personal brands.
Individuals breaking into the industry, and even those continuing to work to stay relevant once in the industry, should gain familiarity with current and new technology, utilizing various platforms to network and exhibit their knowledge and skills. Agencies must do the same. Maintain a company blog, interact with “peer” agencies and professionals through social media, attend and present at professional gatherings − all tactics will help agencies promote their abilities and garner attention from peers and potential clients.
Such tactics also help agencies to establish themselves as reputable experts in a crowded and diverse industry, further enabling an agency to stand out from its competition in maintaining current business and garnering new business. If brands are not what agencies do, but what people think agencies do − as Matt Prince suggested at the conference − then an agency’s audiences must see its work to create a truthful and positive brand image.
Presenting at the PRSSA National Conference, Matt Prince (Disney’s Social Media Manager) stated that “companies are becoming more like individuals, and individuals are becoming more like companies;” Prince identified the congruent relationship between individuals and brands. Like brands, individuals have various types of publics with which they interact and build relationships, and the messages they send about themselves, whether status updates, tweets, or blog posts, are tailored to the intended or expected audience. Similarly, brands, like individuals, have audiences who want to see their personality, not just their professionalism (Cheuvront). Audiences want to see the human-side of companies.
Roetzer claims that “great agencies are built on the strength of great talent;” because of this reality, Roetzer then argues that “individuals within an agency have the opportunity to build powerful personas that drive agency growth.” Such intermingling of various personal brands necessarily reflects the agency brand, too. If carefully planned and nurtured, this phenomenon can act as the foundation of a powerful agency reputation and culture.
Agencies cannot neglect building and maintaining their position in the advertising and public relations industry. Such negligence is harmful to agencies and will stunt client growth. Most agencies agree that content and community are vital to their clients; in fact, the two are mutually required. One cannot function effectively without the other. This understanding and application is vital to agencies as well as their clients. Agencies, like their clients, must assert and maintain their positions in the greater advertising and public relations realm.