The problem is that increasing number of communication channels means brands need specialists in each area to cast the widest – and most effective – net. A brand often appoints specialists in research, media buying, advertising, content production, SEO, PR, social media and more to do so. Having specialist agencies will ensure it has the best of the best in each key area – but does that make for too many chefs in the kitchen and result in a diluted brand message? The reality is also that managing multiple agency relationships requires additional inhouse resources.
It is impossible for an agency to be everything, but by the same token, an agency should be able to skilfully design and implement a strategy across two interrelated channels. Two such channels are the media and social media. If content is king, it’s public relations specialists that are the storytellers. PR people have the ability to turn a message into news and relate it back to a brand. It makes sense, then, that the PR agency that creates news also makes good social media content. Public relations specialists have spent years honing their skills in communicating with different audiences and stakeholders, and they were the people who jumped into social media with two feet while others were still dipping a toe in the water. They were ready and willing to go wider and deeper into the 360-degree world of communications, to enable brands to utilise as many channels as possible. A brand can also expect to pay less for a reputable agency to manage both its PR and social than it would for two specialist agencies.
Brands want to feel reassured their chosen agency can deliver PR results, but also trust that the PR agency will wave that red flag if something won’t work. Being at the forefront of the changing media landscape, a PR consultant knows a stunt is not going to get the same PR mileage today as it would have 10 years ago. That doesn’t necessarily mean the stunt shouldn’t happen. Chances are that there’s an audience on social media ready to lap it up.
So, what should a brand look for in a combined PR and social media agency? The agency’s people should be great at storytelling, creating engaging content, have exemplary skills in the area, meticulous attention to detail and responsiveness, a continuous flow of ideas to engage social audiences, and be able to speak the brand’s language. Another skill that a PR agency has that is often overlooked: it is believed that 40 per cent of complaints are made online. It’s the PR agency that can monitor and manage complaints and rogue customers. Crises often start with complaints online, and it’s PR people who are most adept at crisis communication.
They say you can’t have the best of both worlds, but the bottom line is this: a PR agency can do PR and social and bring numerous benefits to the agency’s brand strategy.