The changing face of a digital PR agency

This morning I have mostly been thinking about the changing face of the PR agency in world of digital PR. Sounds riveting doesn't it. Well maybe that's a wee exaggeraion, but it is interesting. These thoughts were formed in part from a heated conversation about whether or not an Ad agency model would be more appropriate in the day and age of social, which struck up on twitter with @adamvincenzini, @dannywhatmough and @MaxTB on twitter, and offline with @vikkichowney (Reputation Online) and @arunsudhaman (The Holmes Report) at the #PRCAExperts briefing in Holborn this morning.

PR Agency Chat

It's an interesting question = would we be better off moving our agencies to a mixed disciple model, with creatives, planners, account people and producers, rather than sticking with the traditional Account Management hierachy that most agencies still use.

In my own experience here at Lexis, where we have a creative and planning department, digital, design and then the traditional model of account executives, managers, directors and associates, I can see the value of either side of the field.

The traditional model creates and nurtures people through a hierachy to be well rounded PRO's, who can turn their hand to most elements of the PR life with equal grace and competence, but may end up lacking the specialist expertise in certain areas to provide that allusive level of being a "trusted advisor" as David Meister so elloquently expressed in his book of the same title.

The model employed by most large advertising agencies, and in some cases by some PR agencies has it's merits also - providing true "expertise" in different disciplines of the marketing process, meaning that quality can be ensured at every step. This could well work for PR as we see more and more agencies needed to be competent in social media, SEO, media buying and design. These practices require real in depth skill and knowledge to achieve a level where one can be deemed an "expert" which only the most talented PRO would be able to achieve across the board.

So what is the best approach? What has worked for you? Share your stories in the comments below.

Other Thoughts on the topic: Danny Whatmough: Is the PR Agency Model Broken? // Social Matters: