Note: I first published this post in September of 2009. I’m reminded of a Bill Gates quote: “We overestimate the impact of new technologies over the next 2 years, and underestimate its impact in 10 years”. I went back to this post for another writing project I’m working on and decided to update it and clean it up. I’m still interested in any comments and feedback so I’ve decided to update the publish date to give it another shot at life:
The moderator for the session I wrote about yesterday pulled together some interesting comments from the session last night (even some of mine!). Some very good stuff from the person that stepped up to ask where the PR panelists were, including strong points on PRWeb for SEO.
There are some interesting academic arguments and defenses from PR specialists but I think people are losing sight of the fact that these are literally entrepreneurs working part time in their basements or other below C class office space, and Mike was dead on saying “I haven’t seen a PR shop that would get out of bed for less than $4K/month”. Guys clipping coupons for a case of Ramen Pride between coding are not possible clients.
After a night’s sleep it came to me that while the writers/bloggers were saying you can get by without PR people, you have marketing gurus saying you don’t need the writers/bloggers. You’re the expert in the space, you can create your own content. Why work around some other pub’s schedule, or spend time bringing a journalist up to speed on your specific niche when you can publish your own stuff and own the content, track it, and do with it as you please?
Stepping beyond the academic arguments that could be debated ad nauseam, Mike asked the big questions:
Is the “junior staff leverage” model really dead, and if so, what business model will support the next generation of great marketing services firms? The truth is I don’t know. But it seems to me that’s the conversation worth having among the “PR” digerati… not the semantic argument about what PR is or isn’t, but how, in the end, the people delivering it will build a sustainable and productive business.
Before I get into my answers, it’s a good idea to expand the definition of PR beyond influencing writers. Some good stuff already written on that from last night.
…PR is about developing a broad communications program that includes:
- Building a long-term strategy that establish lasting relationships with your core audiences;
- Creating content and managing conversations that engage those audiences directly; and
- Reaching industry influencers (media relations gets lumped in here).
Tactically this means that the communicator or agency you hire should have skill sets that include: writing ability; audio and video skills; creative thinking and the ability to connect with influencers.
That got me thinking about what the business model would look like. By 2012, most marketing, PR, and ad agency positions that revolve around tactics will be reinvented – a huge opportunity here. This is what I think it might look like (keep in mind that me writing this is a lot like all of the jackasses that start restaurants that go out of business because they think that eating out most of their lives is actual foodservice experience):
An Agency FROM THE FUTURE!
I don’t see a scenario where the existing junior staff model can work. It has in the past because of communications friction (trying to call all relevant reporters about hot stories from all your clients every day, hard work but low skill level).
The big idea is the Embedded Agent. Someone who can go into an account a day a week or more to shoot video, record audio and create other relevant content. Ideally they would be paired with a subject matter expert (SME) at the client who will ultimately speak on behalf of the client. Think about building your own Robert Scobles (when he was still at Microsoft) or Scott Montys. This forces a schedule of content production that can be used in a number of scenarios and at the same time will serve as SEO activity.
The agent’s team should also include a Preditor (Producer/Editor) who assembles the raw footage from the Agent. Preditors have access to the best tools and a support network of their peers – no client would be able to reproduce the the effectiveness of the Agent/Preditor team so this is a huge value add. This team would need an admin to handle scheduling as the Agent will be moving around a lot (let’s say with a 3 client load), and the Preditor needs long stretches of uninterrupted time for work – somebody needs to field calls and emergencies.
Beyond the teams are infrastructure that the client has access to that cannot be reproduced without huge expense by the client – the remainder of the value add. Audio/Video production and Photography, specialists in a variety of disciplines including CRM, Lead Generation, whatever the agency can leverage that clients need.
Influencer is the last category, executives that have access to people with markets. You can get on the Today show? Clients will pay for that. Having a strong database here would allow this system to scale to multiple people instead of a the single performer limitation.
Ok, enough with the BS, let’s see if I can backsolve this to a profitable business…
Teams (with benefits, taxes, etc.) Fully loaded agent – $200k, Preditors $120k, Admin $50k = $370k per team/3 clients=$123k, charge $150k to cover fixed expenses etc.= $12,500 per month for the client. The client is getting more than 1/3 of an agent and Preditor (at bare minimum $9k per month). So for 30k per year they get all the value and don’t have the impossible task of finding 1/3 of an agent and Preditor. All the specialist stuff can be sold ala carte for big margin.
Any opinions out there? Is this real or candyland?