It’s time to bridge the gap between PR and media buying

If public relations and advertising are so co-dependent, why then should the agencies responsible for each remain siloed? Cara Cunningham explores the great divide.

While much has been said about the unnatural divide between creative and media, the same tension exists between the PR landscape and media buying, yet little has been done to correct the fragmented model.

Protection of the status quo, as I see it, is the only factor keeping the two apart. The natural interplay, or co-dependency even, between PR and media functions, makes it hard to define where one starts and the other ends.

Hence the inherent double up if you are outsourcing these services to separate agencies. From the duplication of fees, to the crossover of deliverables, it is a clunky and costly structure that is seeing millions in marketing dollars wasted and ineffectively leveraged.

Not only is this traditional siloed agency model limiting the effectiveness of each individual agency, it is coming at the detriment of clients who are footing the bill for multiple creative, media, content, digital, social and PR agencies that don’t talk to each other, let alone align their strategic thinking.

We all know the media landscape has changed. More than ever, it is a pay to play world where advertising dollars are a prime currency. The fallout of this is that agencies offering PR alone are struggling to achieve results and are fast becoming obsolete.

In my opinion, agencies have become too specialised for their own good.

The by-product of a fragmented communications eco-system – in which different agencies assume responsibility for different touch points – is a fragmented customer journey where the ability to effectively track, measure, optimise and convert becomes near impossible. Thus, the ability for a PR or media agency to justify its value becomes near impossible.

A lack of inter-agency communication and collaboration is incredibly costly on multiple fronts. It is precisely the lack of collaborative measurement, transparency and accountability that is tarnishing the collective reputation of agencies in the eyes of their clients.

To avoid such a fate and remain relevant in this ever-evolving mediascape, agencies must expand their offering beyond a single stream.

Just as it makes sense for those who pitch the content to create the content, so too does it figure that those who buy the media should be working in tandem with those that place it organically.

The future lies in a consolidated agency model, where resources are pooled and previously independent functions like PR, media buying, content creation and social media, are brought into alignment, and considered in unison under the one agency roof.

An agency should be the universal conduit that connects clients with their target audiences and potential buyers at every touchpoint. It shouldn’t stop there though.

An agency should also be able to create the associated communications materials for each customer interaction, via the most appropriate channels and communication tactics, all the while tracking their progress and using the analytical insights produced to optimise and retarget messaging, maximise engagement and produce conversions and pre-qualified leads.

The ability to do this, to see through a program or campaign from end-to-end, is a game changer.

The agencies that survive will be those that develop strategies based on commercial outcomes and measure success on the achievement of tangible business objectives, not just impressions and editorial value.

Do this and not only will the agency be indispensable, it will find itself winning a greater share of a client’s marketing budget because it is able to generate better returns across paid, organic and social media collectively.

This is where the true value of an aggregated agency lies, in the ability to take control of the entire process – to create compelling brand content, to support it through strategic media placement and to amplify it further with widespread editorial exposure.

It seems simple, but when wielded together and leveraged in unison, the combined force of these functions makes for a far greater sum than their parts and a far more compelling offering.

Cara Cunningham is director of Neue Media.


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