A lot is demanded of PR agencies these days. The reason: According to PR professionals, customers expect more than just press coverage. In response, some agencies are expanding their services beyond earned media to keep up with client demand and maintain a competitive edge during economic uncertainties.
As the media landscape becomes increasingly fragmented, communications experts say clients are increasingly asking their PR partners about everything from viral TikTok strategies to branded editorial content. Economic uncertainty has also put additional pressure on these agencies to expand their services and hopefully capture a larger market share, experts say.
“Being able to offer a wide range of services to sell to your customers really helps us weather the bumpy economy,” said David Parkinson, co-founder and CEO of Method Communications. “You have to have an agency now that covers all of that.”
Method has worked with companies such as Meta, personal finance brand Quicken, and Overstock.com. In recent months, the communications company has hired new, diverse talent, including a content editor, designer and marketing manager, to expand its capabilities beyond earned media.
Of the agency’s 100 full-time employees, 25 are now pure marketers, according to Parkinson. This year, 25% of Method’s revenue is expected to come from marketing services alone, up from an estimated 10% in previous years, Parkinson added. (He didn’t provide exact numbers.) In fact, in a survey by Digiday+ Research, 59% of agency professionals said their agencies have increased the number of services they offer over the past year.
Meanwhile, the US arm of global PR and communications agency Sling & Stone last fall launched a new service aimed at startups, offering more flexible contract terms to better meet changing client needs. According to Erin Grant, evp at Sling & Stone US, the new startup-focused service retainer fee starts at between $7,000 and $7,500 per month, compared to the fee for more mature brand customers, which averages at $12,000 per month month begins. In other words, by opting for Sling & Stone’s new service, a startup could theoretically save a few bucks.
“When I first got into PR, it was print publications and magazine placements, and that was the shining light of success,” Grant said. “Obviously, as we continue to evolve and become more digital, that’s changing the way we think about what PR is like.”
According to Milan Mobley, CEO of UManagement Strategic Communications and Public Relations Agency in Atlanta, communications agency UManagement recently changed its strategy to focus more on social media than traditional publications.
“Where we always and I mean always will love our journalists and media to drive instant traffic for our customers and sales minds, it looks like their online presence is key and again the trends we need to follow Mobley said in an emailed statement to Digitag.
Ten years ago, UK and US based SEEN Group saw the writing on the wall and expanded their services beyond communications to include things like creative services, content creation and brand experience. But over the past three years, the agency has seen an increase in incoming client inquiries for various services. Given the boom in influencer marketing, namely micro and nano influencers, the agency will launch another feature in the US in June: connecting clients with nano beauty creators via social media. SEEN’s US customers include beauty brands such as Byredo, L’Oréal Professionnel and Dove.
This is all to say that PR is no longer a one-trick pony, according to a publicist who spoke anonymously to Digiday, noting that communications firms are being urged to fire on all guns to keep up with customers’ expectations of media coverage hold.
In today’s fast-paced and fragmented digital landscape, media is everywhere, from print publications and television to social media and branded channels. As a result, clients expect more from their PR agency partners and are looking for more flexibility in an ever-changing digital landscape, including sometimes viral spread. Meanwhile, the agencies themselves have been working to convince clients of the value of slow and lasting brand building, with a focus on building brand ambassadors versus one-time buyers.
As economic uncertainty looms over the industry and marketing budgets are under more scrutiny than ever, agency experts say clients are increasingly demanding that all services be offered under one roof.
“The most important factor is that they want a consistent partner to lead the brand narrative and storytelling,” said Melissa Sansone, general manager of SEEN’s US office. “If they can do everything in one place with an established team, they’re able to justify the expense.”
Apparently, expanding an agency’s capabilities is a growing trend in the communications industry that could mean changes in how PR works overall from this point forward. In the future, PR agencies may be challenged to rethink what success looks like across a broader media landscape and diversified storytelling channels, Grant said.
“For PR to do well, a lot of different things have to work or you’re going to throw all your eggs in one basket, and that goes for any marketing channel,” she said.