Are We a Public Relations Agency?

We still categorize ourselves as a PR agency, but that’s only because the vast majority of prospects and RFPs use the term.

Once we engage with clients, our actions reflect a “communications consultancy.”

Is there a difference?

Public Relations Society of American (PRSA) defines PR as:

“Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”

I can live with a definition that umbrellas what we do.

But here’s the rub.

Most people still perceive PR with old-school definitions in which “media relations” and “public relations” are used interchangeably.

Which brings me back to “communications consultancy” since our thinking and ultimately our campaigns blend digital, storytelling, SEO, owned media, social, thought leadership and content marketing with traditional PR.

Our work can even overlap into paid media, like a current project in which we’re negotiating sponsored content with grassroots bloggers.

Holistic Approach to Communications

Here’s what we consider the bottom line

It doesn’t matter whether you sell tablets, treadmills or technology for data centers, prospective customers conduct some form of due diligence online. With this in mind, we need to bring together the different components (and associated expertise) to help clients reach those folks.

It’s somewhat ironic that the less communications infrastructure an organization has, the more likely they’ll move toward an integrated approach to communications.

In large companies with stratified functions, the webmaster buys from a web design company, the social media head buys from a digital agency, the content czar buys from a copywriting shop, and the PR lead buys from a PR company.

Money – not to mention Fiefdomville – makes it nearly impossible for these companies to execute blended campaigns.

The opportunity to really move the needle when it comes to digital presence tends to lie with smaller organizations where the PR head essentially serves as the first lieutenant to the CMO or VP of marketing (or there is no senior PR person).

So are we a PR agency or a communications consultancy?

I suppose it depends on the assignment (though the anchor text above reveals a tilt).

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3 comments

3 Comments so far

  1. Gini Dietrich (@ginidietrich) January 10th, 2013 6:09 pm

    In the past three months, we’ve been going after bigger clients as the firm grows and it’s been REALLY interesting to be in the new business meetings where all they talk about is media relations. Just yesterday, I was in a meeting and, after they told me what they were looking for, I said, “I don’t think we’re the right firm for you. While we do media relations, it’s less than five percent of our overall strategy.” I started to pack my things to leave and they stopped me to learn more. I think there is A LOT of education left to do before anything changes.

  2. hoffman January 10th, 2013 6:41 pm

    Totally agree.

    Once you’re part of the dialog, the prospect doesn’t care how you categorize your firm. They want to hear smart and creative approaches to communications that address their business/marketing objectives.

    But here’s the rub–

    To participate in the dialog, many searches focus on the PR firm category. That’s why I’m reticent to give up the moniker.

    I think being called a PR agency gets us long listed at which point we can shape the discussion toward a more holistic approach to communications … which inevitably dovetails into education.

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