Posted by an Honored Guest Thursday, July 26, 2007
Got our first responder to yesterday's PR Leader Challenge. It's bold. It's dead-on righteous. Frankly, it's totally exceeded our expectations and set a pretty aggressive pace for our C-Level peers. Joel Postman, EVP of Eastwick Communications submitted a piece titled "The Costcofication of Media."
Joel needs little introduction. He is presently the head of Emerging Media at Eastwick. Prior to Eastwick, Joel was director of executive communications for Hewlett-Packard’s Technology Solutions Group. And prior to that he led executive communications for Sun and was the primary speechwriter for Scott McNealy.
Here, Joel puts it all in perspective. In a little more than a thousand words, he totally captures the dynamics and drivers in today's PR marketplace. He calls it "a crisis of quality for clients." DAMN!
Without further ado... here's Joel:
The Costcofication of Media By Joel Postman
EVP, Emerging Media
As PRWeek reported earlier this month, a recent study found that a majority of 55 PR agencies surveyed “have competed with advertising and interactive agencies for social media campaigns, and occasionally, even for traditional PR functions.”
Consolidation is inevitable in all commerce. American consumers have discarded all notions of quality, product differentiation and brand allegiance. Consumer goods are purchased at Costco by families queuing up 10-deep with extra-large $350+ cartloads of clothing, food, furniture, electronics, camping gear, tires, "entertainment," and anything else for which the company has been able to make a profitable deal. It's easy to vilify Costco and Wal-Mart, but consumer preference for one-stop shopping and the lowest price are obviously key drivers in this.
And so goes the Costcofication of media. As corporate marketing budgets tighten, and internal communications staff is cut, and turned over to junior (read less expensive, more easily abused) people, it is inevitable that corporations will look to outsource more and more communications functions and projects to PR and advertising agencies and marketing firms. Giovanni Rodriguez terms it "a crisis of identity" for agencies. I would call it a crisis of quality for clients. The result is that many corporations have inadvertently chosen to do one-stop shopping for a cart full of generic, low-cost media.
Large corporations are becoming increasingly interested in "integrated communications" providers. (See Craig's List for a unique, modern definition of "provider.") Often this is advocated internally as a means to "more consistent messaging," and "more integrated planning." More often, though, the drive to reduce the number of communications services vendors is just that -- a vendor consolidation drive. From a business perspective, having fewer vendors, fewer points-of-contact, fewer budgets, and fewer P.O.s is a more visible and measurable goal than the success of any communications program. When a new CMO or VP of marketing comes into a company, one of the first things he or she can do to impress the CEO is to do a clean sweep of communications vendors, reducing accounting and management costs in a way that is much clearer to an MBA than any media coverage or web metrics report.
Messaging, writing and media relations, along with analyst relations, are at the core of the universe of things that PR agencies do very well. Better than anyone in fact. It's why we exist. And clients who understand the importance of these three things, pursue them, commit to them, budget for them, and listen to counsel, get results.
Radiating from this core are concentric rings of extended communications competencies that eventually creep beyond the reasonable expectations of what the typical PR agency can do well for its clients. The second ring might include social media, community building, e-mail marketing and web writing. The third ring, where things can begin to get a little dicey, might include direct mail, advertising, e-newsletters, trade show graphics, and corporate identity. Certainly within one agency or another, there are people of supreme competence in each of these areas. I am not speaking about the ability of any one particular agency to competently provide any or all of these services. I am making sweeping generalizations to which I have a high level of confidence that most PR professionals would agree.
Then there are the outer rings, those things that PR people are being called to dabble in, but which can be dangerously unrelated to the core capabilities of the agency. On a 16th century map, these rings would be marked "there be noxious gasses here." An ideal example of outer ring capabilities are Search Engine Optimization, Google Ad Sense, web metrics and all of the other inherently technical stuff that makes up behind-the-scenes web marketing.
We live in a world measured by clicks, pageviews, keywords and conversions. I know -- better page rankings = more ad dollars and more web site hits = leads and revenue. Hard to argue with. And harder still to ignore that clients want and need these services. But any company whose mission statement extols leads and revenue as primary business objectives, forgetting what it needs to offer the marketplace in order to generate that revenue, will ultimately fail.
One area in particular where agencies need to be diligent is SEO (Search Engine Optimization), which ought instead to be called GO (Google Optimization) because no one gives a damn about any other search engine. Unless the agency asserts its primary goal -- the production of clear, concise writing that helps clients tell compelling and relevant stories -- fully understanding the implications of SEO, and that improperly managed, it can be a distraction from that goal. The competent agency will manage the twin goals of good content and SEO in tandem by closely managing the SEO process and policing the output of SEO providers. The marginal agency will idly stand by while overzealous SEO specialists mangle their clients' content.
Ultimately, the decisions made by any agency as to what services they will offer to clients are made on the basis of a number of criteria, not the least of which is actual competence in those areas. And of course the well-intentioned agency wants to provide first-rate client service and a more integrated communications offering. But there are other drivers which are not always conducive to first-rate PR client service, like growth-for-growth's sake, account control without consideration of client needs, and the fear of losing a client when that big bad new marketing VP comes in to the client's organization, does a clean sweep, and sends out the RFP for an integrated communications provider.
The agencies that will survive are those that do not over-extend themselves, and who stay focused on those core PR capabilities: messaging, writing and media relations, and on those inner concentric rings wherein lie the additional services that a 21st century agency can, and ought to be able to provide. Good client counsel dictates that we speak up when clients are taking the wrong approach, or are focused on the wrong outcomes. As in all areas of what we offer our clients, we need to speak up and let them know which services are appropriate, given all the factors mentioned here. Otherwise, we run the risk of diluting the value we offer clients, which could ultimately lead to a death spiral for the industry.
Or as Detective Harry Callahan said, "a man's got to know his limitations."
From: 'Amanda Chapel'
Sent: Wed, 7-25-07, 11:58 AM
To: Janet Tyler, President, Airfoil; Andy Getsey, Co–founder/CEO, Atomic PR; Margery Kraus, President/CEO, APCO Worldwide; Neal Cohen, CEO/North America, APCO Worldwide; Brad Staples, CEO/Europe, APCO Worldwide; John Bliss, Principal, Bliss, Gouverneur & Associates; Andrea Coville, CEO, Brodeur; Harry Burson, Burson-Marsteller; Mark Penn, President & CEO, Burson Marsteller; Ken Eudy, CEO, Capstrat; Doug Spong, President, Carmichael Lynch Spong; Joel Curran, SVP and managing director, CKPR; Jens Bang, President/CEO, Cone; Andy Cooper Principal, CooperKatz & Company, Inc.; Thomas Coyne, President/CEO, Coyne PR; Barbara Bates, Co-Founder and Principal, Eastwick; Elaine Cummings, Co-Founder and Principal, Eastwick; Richard Edelman, CEO, Edelman PR; Rick Murray, President, Me2Revolution; David Brain, CEO Europe, Edelman PR; Dave Senay, CEO, Fleishman-Hillard Inc.; Lisa Sepulveda, CEO, Euro RSCG Magnet; Declan Kelly, President & CEO, Financial Dynamics; Cos M. Mallozzi, President and CEO, Gibbs & Soell PR; Fred Cook, President and CEO, Golin/Harris International; Greg Matusky, president, Gregory FCA Communications; Paul Taaffe, CEO, Hill and Knowlton; Sabrina Horn, President, Horn Group; Shannon Latta, Partner, Horn Group; Kevin Lynch, principal and founding partner, HLB Communications; David Gallagher, CEO, Ketchum/London; Chris Lewis, CEO, Lewis PR; Ken Makovsky, President Makovsky + Company; Margaret Booth, President, M Booth & Associates; Mark Hass, CEO, Manning Selvage & Lee; Michael Kempner, CEO, MWW Group; Tim Dyson, CEO, Next Fifteen; Marcia Silverman, CEO, Ogilvy PR Worldwide; Lynn Casey, CEO, Padilla Speer Beardsley; Steve Cody, Managing Partner & Co-Founder, Peppercom; Helen Ostrowski, CEO, Porter Novelli; Michael Petruzzello, Managing Partner, Qorvis; Peter Finn, CEO, Ruder Finn; Steve Schwartz, President and CEO, Schwartz Communications; Todd Defren, Principal, SHIFT Communications; Marc Hausman, President and CEO, Strategic Communications; Tony Signore, CEO, Taylor; Aedhmar Hines, CEO, Text 100; Lou Hoffman, President, The Hoffman Agency; Tony Sapienza, Partner, Topaz Partners; Paula Slotkin, Partner, Topaz Partners; Richard Cline, Founder and President, Voce Communications; Frank Shaw, President, Waggener Edstrom Worldwide; Harris Diamond, CEO, Weber Shandwick; Scott Widmeyer, Chairman, Widmeyer Communications, Inc.; Joe Clayton, President & CEO, Widmeyer Communications
Subject: An Open Letter to the Leadership of the PR Industry
Where are you?!! Listen... we had a Call to Action last week where we invited a number of you here to a critical debate about the future of our business. Not one showed up.
WELL, WE'RE ABSOLUTELY OUTRAGED! While there's a growing cancer in our industry, you (plural) seem bent on lining your pockets almost exclusively. Regrettably, a number of your peers are involved in activities that will surely kill our business. And when it goes to hell and you make off with your millions, we are the ones who will be left holding the bag.
Here... connect these dots: Edelman is out doing back flips trying to reduce us to direct marketers; the president of one of the leading "PR 2.0" firms says he cannot see a difference between PR and advertising anymore; there's a whole sub culture now in our business that's presently throwing communications expertise out the window and replacing it with base SEO techniques; you've got Hines proselytizing that we embrace the cartoon that is Second Life; you've got Kempner leading the way for us to legitimize blog bribery. And how 'bout the mainstream biz? You've got Torossian boasting about Girls Gone Wild, taking us from the "lying profession" to porn marketing services. It's unbelievable.
It all raises two simple questions: What won't you do for a dollar? Or preferably, when will you stand up?
Bottom line, the business has never been more pathetic and you are endorsing it with your silence. Used to be that once a year or so a major paper would variously satirize us; today, on Strumpette, there's something daily. Frankly, we cannot keep up.
IT'S TIME FOR A CHANGE! Help us end the silence. Speak up now or forever hold you peace. We invite you to join us the concerned majority in an effort to reestablish the respected professional discipline of PR. No more obfuscation. We'd like each of you to stand up and show your support and especially your smarts.
TELL US! What should we do and how do you personally plan to lead us there?
On Thursday, March 8, 2007 at 7:41 AM, Ronn Torossian, President and CEO of 5WPR, emphatically promised that he was going to sue us. No real reason, he was just irritated by our teasing him about getting in bed with pornographer Joe Francis. Anyway, Ronn gave his obscenity-laced word that we'd see the complaint in 72 hours. It's now late by
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