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:

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3 Responses to The changing face of a digital PR agency

  1. Anonymous says:

    Having worked for agencies with both models, I fully endorse and encourage the more ad agency-like structure.

    I work at an Online PR agency called C&M (, and due to the Online nature of our work, it makes far more sense to have “teams” from which people are drawn upon for their expertise, than having AE, AM and AD on any one account.

    A lot of what we do requires SEO and analytics expertise, and so, we have a team to provide that insight (with individual specialisms such as analytics, SEO and research). On the other side, we have a team to execute creative and engagement pieces (again, with individual specialisms such as blogger PR, content creation and management and social engagement [that's me]).

    So a project brief comes in and we’re drawn in from the collective pool based on what’s required. In a work sense, this is great because we are consulted for our valued expertise, and we get to work with a variety of people across the business, and learn from each other. In a client sense, we can speak with authority on our particular subjects, and they value that because they know our individual disciplines (we have descriptive job titles – when we say Online PR ‘executive’, we mean executive in the execution sense, not the structure sense). Also, it makes them feel loved having a ‘panel’ of experts on their account.

    The difficulty with the traditional model is that it creates potential risk for people to become jack of all trades yet master of none, as it doesn’t really promote outward personal development, just upward. In a career sense, this becomes tricky as AE/AM’s at one agency might have completely different responsibilities and specialisms to those in another, meaning job matching could be a bit haphazard (with more time having to be set over for training). Also, in terms of Account Directors, all too often, they are trusted as the voice of authority on the account/project, when in reality their input has only consisted of guidance, so they don’t truly have an idea of the ins and outs of each project.

  2. For what it’s worth, that’s how we run things at the ‘heads…

  3. [...] UPDATE: James Poulter has posted his thoughts here [...]

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