Is the traditional PR agency model f****d? This PR man thinks so

Something happened the other day.

Has traditional PR had its day?

It was only a little thing, nothing but a digital flicker, but it contained a simple, and unequivocal, message: the PR industry, in its current guise at least, is f****d.

The message came in the form of a tweet from a national business journalist I follow, who is also a pal of mine.

He was after some views from an expert for a story he was writing and the moment I saw the tweet I thought: "I have just the client for you".

Thing is, by the time I'd got through to my pal, and this was only a few minutes after his tweet, he DMed me to say that my client, MY client, had already been in touch. And that I was a loser.

The client was sending some thoughts over right then, as I sat helpless, unnecessary, out of the loop.

Conclusion: we've all had it.

Media mystery no more

Why have we had it? Because the media are opening up, and it's happening at a rate of knots.

Journalists can be reached by anyone, any time. And companies increasingly know this. More importantly, your clients increasingly know this.

The media are no longer a mystery, an enigma that only PRs can solve. How can they be? Journalists are a millisecond away. They're right here, right now. They’re as good as sat on your lap.

Anyone can reply to the tweet of a Times journalist and be on Times Online (not that anyone reads it) 10 minutes later. Or they can quickly tweet them a link to some content they’ve created. No more need to email a ‘release’.

Give me results

This ease with which companies can communicate directly with journalists, whether trade, local, national or international, is just one reason why the traditional PR agency is headed for the knacker's yard. There are many others.

Companies, these days, want results.

In part, this is to do with the fact that many companies out there are on the rivet and every penny they spend has to be justified.

But it's also to do with the fact that bloody Google, with all this PPC malarkey, has gone and changed the way everyone thinks about marketing.

It's created a ghoul that scares the life out of many traditional PR agencies: ROI.

Nowadays, more and more companies, especially companies run by younger people, cannot understand why they should pay for something if they do not receive results. Retainers are a foreign language.

Many of these new smart-arse marketers and CEOs you want to punch in the face, admittedly, but they're right. These days, it's all about results.

The days of PR agencies being able to charge a few grand a month, or 10 grand a month, for producing adequate results, are over.

I'm not signing

This growing focus on results explains why more and more companies are playing hard to get on contracts.

Three and six-month contracts are on their last legs. Why should I commit to spending £36k+VAT over six months with you? You might be pants.

I'm happy to start with you but I am NOT signing that contract.

At most, I'll give you a month’s notice. Now are we going to do this?

Content marketing

And then there's content.

As Google gets cleverer, quality of content and the social signals that content attracts are becoming ever more important.

The mainstream media know this. And they're shitting themselves as the media are really nothing more than aggregators of content.

The true experts are you and me (well maybe not me) and if we're writing better content than the aggregators, Google will reward us over them.

Produce great content and companies, even small companies, no longer need to go to the media for great exposure, but can hoover up the eyeballs direct by ranking seriously high.

And the best thing of all is that eyeballs on your own website are far more likely to convert into paying customers.

Game over

In the digital world, there are no barriers, there is no mystery: there is just communication, content and flux.

Everyone, anywhere is a communications expert. And they are every minute of the day.

For the traditional PR agency model, it's game over.

Dominic Hiatt is CEO of Just In Time PR

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