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: http://bit.ly/fJZDir

I've joined Lexis PR

Well many of you reading this may already be aware of this, (news travels fast in this game) but I am glad that I am now able to make it public here.

After a short 5 month stint with the wonderful people at Euro RSCG Biss Lancaster. This week marks my first week as Digital Consultant at Lexis PR.

So why the move? Well the past 6 months have been quite a big shift for the Poulter household - moving house, changing jobs (twice now!) and getting married - people have asked if I have gone a little mad, and to be honest I have asked myself similar questions! But it seems that life moves in seasons like that.

Season

The new job holds some amazing opportunities and the opportunity to work with some fantastic brands, from the likes of Budweiser, Coca-Cola, Unilever and Boots. So exciting times ahead!

If you want to get in touch, or pop by for a coffee just shout - james@jamespoulter.co.uk

I'll leave you with this passage from Ecclesiastes, that often neglected scripture, which I think sums it up perfectly...

Ecclesiastes 3

A Time for Everything

1 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:

2 a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,

3 a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build

4 a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,

5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain,

6 a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away,

7 a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak,

8 a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.

9 What does the worker gain from his toil?10 I have seen the burden God has laid on men.11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.12 I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live.13 That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil—this is the gift of God.

Becoming a dispenser

Tokyo, Tokyodome Baseball If you have been to a festival, rugby match, football game, or in some cases even the odd school fete, you will have no doubt come across a strange looking fellow or lass with a large barrel beer or pint of "The Black Stuff" strapped to their back, holding a spout, ready to fill your cup with their hoppy beverage. These things are not a bad idea at all. The beer comes to you and it often turns up again when the glass is empty. Someone one day thought about using the technology of portable cooling, filtration and storage, saw the problem of people cramming up to heavily packed bars in stadiums, and fixed one of the truly annoying parts of live events - just simply getting a drink.

I think this little innovation paints a brilliant picture of what is going on around us now. We can all be dispensers. We all have the potential to use a little bit of technology and share what we have with the world, in a way that is truly useful. So how do you go about being a dispenser?

What's in your barrel?

Working out what kind of brand you have in your barrel is often more difficult that getting out there and sharing it (after all, twitter and Facebook aren't all that difficult really...  I mean if 500 Million people can do it...). Each of us has been packed with a truly UNIQUE set of giftings, skills and a past that makes us full of great stuff. We had the potential to be a dispenser of that uniqueness - and the first step to dispensing it, is know what you have. So take stock of it? What do you have that you can give away?

  • What knowledge? What Experience?
  • What connections? What Network?
  • What assetts? What information?
  • Work out what is in your barrel...

Learn to pour it out

Learning to dispense what you have I think is a two part deal, one if a attitudinal, one is a technical.

First - the technical.

This bit is easy. Just get on with it. Can you write a blog about your experience? Can you create a great presentation and share it on Scribd? Can you create a great set of infographics and get them up on Flickr?

Or can you just meet up with someone to share an experience over a latte? (Above all the twittering and blogging I do - this remains my single favorite way of sharing with people).

Second - The attitudinal

Being a dispenser however requires openess. Openess to be opposed, rejected, applauded, revered, belittled and in many cases ignored. This is a matter of the heart as much as it is of the head. If you are ready to share what you have, then be ready to face up to what people may have to say about it - and if you are really ready to be a dispenser, then be ready to share and encourage that constructive critisism. This is something I have learned and love about some of the best dispensers I know.

Tear up the bar tab

What I have found the most rewarding about being a dispenser, is the one thing that the beer dispensers at a Rugby ground cannot do - a dispenser creates new dispensers. You see - when we begin to pour out what we have into others, we see it well up in them, and sooner or later like when a beer glass overflows people become so full of what we and pour into them, they cannot help but dispense it themselves. now that's exciting...

Your 2pence worth...

  • How do you choose to give away what you have?
  • What are the barriers that get in the way of you living the life of a dispenser?

*I felt compelled to share this thought after a talk at our church @stmaryslondon, by our senior pastor Barry Kissell. Barry spoke on how we can share the Holy Spirit because we each have him in us, and therefore we can be dispensers of the spirit to others. I think this is a reality for many Christians, but something that applies to all people, no matter what your faith (or absence of it).*

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Facebook, Privacy & PR

Yesterday afternoon I sat down with the folks from PR Week for the Video Podcast to discuss the recent changes to Facebook's privacy policy, and how they have handled the PR around it. Here is the vid;

This was filmed ahead of last night's announcements from Facebook about the next steps in Privacy control with the "masterswitch" that will be rolling out to users in the coming days.

Below is the video posted on the Facebook blog from Mark Zuckerburg about the new changes. Which, in terms of content is great. It terms of delivery however... well it speaks for itself - AWEFUL. A monotone CEO is every PR's nightmare, let alone visibly reading from an AutoCue. Now we all know Mark has never been the best communicator, he is no Steve Jobs, and we have no reason to expect him to be.

However as I mentioned in the podcast - we are talking about one of companies that is encouraging and enabling, sharing, openness and sociality - and they respond to a problem that effects nearly 500 Million people in a totally unsociable way.

So what can we learn here?

Simply:

  • Respond early and openly - don't hide in the shadows of a looming crisis, move swiftly
  • If your brand image is one about friendship and community - choose spokespeople that reflect that brand image
  • If you are socially enabled business - BE SOCIAL - use what is at hand to your advantage - a direct link into the homes of over 500 million people is a tool worth using when necessary

The Value Of A Blog

So I have finally succumbed to the idea of setting up my blog in a little more personalised state. So if you head over to http://jamespoulter.co.uk you will find "Sunday Latte Lamentations" in a somewhat under construction phase.

I am setting up on WordPress (hosted by lovely fellow @leesmallwood - a thoroughly decent chap) . Which obviously means a overhall of themes and widgets, but also a re-evaluation of why I blog, what I blog and how I blog.

After a lovely morning spent down in Kent @ Huggies HQ (Client: Kimberley Clarke) meeting some of the UK's finest Mum bloggers (@glowstars @YoungMummyUk @Kellyfairy to be precise) really made me think.

I started out blogging as a way of documenting my thoughts and poetry that I began writing in a more serious fashion about 3 years ago (hence the title of this blog - spurred by a poem I wrote by the same name). It really was just the thoughts, ideas and melody that roll out of the life rhythm that is being a Londoner. However over time that changed and moulded into what my blog is today, an amalgamation of social communication-marketing-culture thing, with a quasi-Christian slant on the world. Which interestingly is never what I set out to be about, it just kind of happened that way.

After chatting to the Mums this morning it appear that my experience is not to dissimilar to a lot of bloggers out there, we all start with a passion, a realisation that others might give 2pence about our thoughts, and a desire for a connection with those who share that passion, but over time things get in the way that dilute that (SEO, Google Analytics, #tags).

By no means am I saying that this dilution is a bad thing, I think is just inevitable, however I do wonder what it is that keeps people like you coming back to read these musings.

So that leads me back (kind of) to where I began, as I re-evaluate the way I blog I would love to know why it is you read what I write. What topics interest you, what would you like more of or less of? Or do you honestly just end up clicking inanely on whatever tweetdeck serves you up? (I know I am guilty of that).

I am not out just to please the crowd, but if writing, blogging, journeying, or whatever you call it is truly about passions, and a desire for connection, then it's always nice to know what you connect with, what you are passionate about, what makes you tick.

So please - let me know.

Monday Musings: The Gutenberg Effect

Morning All. Welcome to your Monday. Here are some digital nuggets to sink your little nashers into for the week of March 8th. Kicking off with a video spotlight: How The Interenet is Changing Advertising.

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This cracking little "epipheo" presents captures very succinctley something which as been nagging at my brain for a while. Something I like to call "The Gutenberg Effect". For me the technological shifts that have truely rocked the world have always brought about a new way of thinking and with that new way, an outburst of creativity has spread like wildfire.

Looking back to creation of the printing press, what Gutenberg achieved was not only a technological shift, but a cultural one that allowed people for the first time to hold the printed word in their hands and read it for themselves. A technology that was a key driver in the cultural shift that ultimately ended up becoming The Reformation.

We have seen this process repeat throughout recent history with the creation of commercial radio springing up from the creativity of HAM radio set users in the early 20th century, and then far more recently in the boom of satellite television. Each has created a shift in the way we communicate with one another. Each has demanded something new of the sender and recipient of communication. With print it was undivided attention. With radio it became a background medium, with TV a shared collective experience.

The internet in general, but increasingly the social web provides a different form of communication. A new kind of shared experience, that is not media specific, time specific or geography specific. An experience that is neither broadcast nor narrowcast. Yet is still a shared experience, but that experience is fundamentally different, as for the first time the way in which that experience is consumed lies in the hands of the recipient, NOT the sender.

This means big things for the advertising and marketing industries. It means a change of mindset, a different thinking is required, as we can no longer control or stipulate that a communication has to be consumer OUR way. But be open to the fact that our communication will be consumed, when, where and how the recipient wants. The sooner that marketers get that this shared experience is a movable typing twittering tubing experience, not a media experience, the better.

More on that in the coming weeks...

in other news...

A fantastic dissection of HootSuite for the unitiated from my chum Gemma Went

10 Great Newbie Twitter Mistakes Made By Businesses from Mike Johansson on Social Media Today

And a great presentation from Coca-Cola on Social Media care of Robin Grant @ wearesocial