A couple of weeks ago, I argued that Australian media was about to be swamped by the impending globalisation of media. I briefly touched on what that might mean for the PR sector, but thought it warranted a further analysis, specifically in relation to Australian PR and agencies.
My first thought on the issue is, I certainly don’t have all the answers so I’m not even going to pretend that I do. As we’ve discussed on Influencing over the last couple of weeks, the PR sector is probably ripe for significant disruption so any analysis of PR trends right now can only exist on a rocky foundation of unsubstantiated assumptions. So instead, let me throw up five talking points...
1) Bigger, riskier stories
One of the key trends that I identified in my initial piece was that the bar would continued to be raised, as to what stories would constitute local coverage. With so much content able to be pulled in from international partner sources, local journalists will be looking for big, marquee content for their home pages with little justification for anything else. So news needs to be bigger, more sensational, and generally that implies more risk. I would argue that makes the agency partner more valuable, as having different insights and views will make for better decision-making.
Some companies should forget about PR — if you’ve got a lot wrong within your organisation, it’s probably just best to hide until you’ve got things right.
2) Less reliance on earned media
If the media ceases to be interested in your story, it becomes critical that you’re able to tell that story through other channels and that’s why content marketing is becoming so popular and important. With little guarantee that media will pick up any piece you’re working on, you’ve got to be able to re-spin those stories for your own channels, or else deal with many PR campaigns coming to little.
Indeed, as media gets tougher, agencies in particular will need to find other ways to make a buck across initiatives like content marketing, strategic brand counsel, internal communications and social relations. Thought leadership becomes critical.
3) Local, local, local
You already see in those publications that are operating as global publishing businesses, there becomes a laser focus on Australian stories for local reporters. Lazy, repurposing of international stories just won’t cut it, anymore. If you look at the first three points in this article then one of the biggest skills of any PR professional or organisation, is going to be a skill generally more traditionally aligned with journalism — story discovery. You need to get into the guts of your organisation/s and really dig up your flow of local news stories and interest items. More smaller, local items — less big, flashy launches.
4) The importance of agency networks
Globalisation is not just impacting media and PR. Increasingly, the internet is breaking down barriers to international competition and more Australian firms, particularly those ambitious firms who are most likely to want to use the services of PR agencies, are increasingly born-global or have international objectives. So they want a PR strategy not just for Australia, but for international markets as well, and they’re going to want one PR program to achieve that.
This doesn’t necessarily mean hiring an multi-national agency, but I think boutique and independent agencies need to have relationships so they can extend their reach into international markets. Of course, the flipside is, having those relationships will almost certainly mean it will also flow the other way with international organisations wanting Australian PR well-before they consider setting up an office or dealing with local suppliers.
5) Better tools and systems
If you want to discover the limitations of email, start working on international collaborations. As someone who works with staff on three different continents, I can tell you that this is when you have to step up your use of collaboration and workflow tools. PR agencies tend to get by, with lots of meetings and a flood of emails, but those less than optimum methods fall down quickly when you’re dealing with different time-zones and people you can’t just sit down with, to iron out the rough bits.
Indeed, you’ll need to become familiar with a whole range of new tools and systems as you expand your business beyond media relations and beyond geographic boundaries. What newswires do you use internationally? How do you manage social, content, etc and what ties it all back together into your reporting mechanism?
The nice thing here is there is not a lot to be lost, by preparing yourself for these kinds of changes. Let’s say, I’m wrong about all of this, and nothing really changes. If you get cracking on any of the above items, they’re only going to make you better at the work you’re already doing.
Phil Sim is the CEO of MediaConnect Australia, whose flagship product is the Influencing online PR management suite. Influencing is a media database and tool kit, that helps agencies and PR departments slash their admin and work smarter and faster. Register for your FREE community login at www.influencing.com.au.