PR agencies, you need to work with us, not against us

The idea that media agencies are weak and can be replaced by PR agencies is preposterous argues Shivani Maharaj. In this guest post, she argues paid media actually now drives earned media.

At last week’s CommsCon event, Ben Shipley, managing director of Spectrum Group, told an audience of public relations professionals that the time is ripe to take on media agencies.

He said: “There’s never been an opportunity where they have been as weak as they are right now.”

Shipley went on to say: “Having come out of the WPP network, I definitely see there is an opportunity to take on the big guys and win.”

There’s no argument that there’s a land grab happening in agency land right now as PR, creative and media agencies tussle to define their roles. Working in the partnerships and innovation space, I’m at the coal face of this every day with content and influencer marketing two of the most hotly contested spaces. Every media proposal I see at the moment includes these two marketing approaches and while that conversation might have gone on in isolation in the past, today there’s an acknowledgement these efforts can amplify or accompany paid media.

To suggest PR agencies can cut media agencies out of the equation entirely is preposterous, particularly given how much paid is driving earned media these days.

Media agency investment teams regularly forge deals with the sales teams of publishers and television networks. These relationships are now extending to include production teams as well as partnerships divisions which more publishers are establishing. As such, we find ourselves working in the space between what media and PR agencies have traditionally delivered. This is a growing space but because media agencies have always held the biggest pot of money – that’s one thing Shipley did get right in his comments – clients are looking to us to lead the charge.

I sat in a meeting recently with the PR team of one of our brands and they asked me: “How do we drive more PR leveraging our media spend?”

Unlike Shipley, I’m not about to encourage media agencies to cut PR agencies out of the picture because I appreciate the value PR agencies bring to our clients. In fact, I’d like to bring some PR people in-house as they are great at telling stories which is a skill we don’t necessarily have.

Likewise, we have knowledge and tools that PR agencies do not. Because of this, we’re going to be best placed to deliver for our clients if we work together as opposed to against each other.

In an ideal world, agencies of all disciplines collaborate to conceptualise and deliver solutions for our clients instead of engendering friction. It’s certainly something we champion in our dealings with other agencies. In fact, our collaborative spirit sees us take PR agencies through all of our media recommendations even if they don’t return the favour.

In today’s shifting media landscape, the best approach is to work together. Instead of looking to “steal” from agencies of other disciplines, how about we “share”?

Shivani Maharaj is the head of content, innovations and partnerships at Maxus Communications Australia.


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