What your PR team of the future will look like

In the last two blog posts, we looked at some of the key trends currently influencing the PR industry, focusing on how changing work models are forcing a rethink of the traditional PR agency structure. We also looked at the growing need for senior-level subject matter expertise, which is creating opportunities for niche agencies to compete effectively against larger PR firms.

Today, I want to dive deeper into this topic by looking at the convergence of these two trends and what it could mean for the delivery of PR services in the future.

As previously noted, we are seeing a growing number of freelancers and consultants emerge in the PR space, offering a tailored, senior-level service with a degree of flexibility and cost-effectiveness that is proving compelling to clients.

At the same time, as issues surrounding new technologies and business models grow more complex, we are seeing more potential clients seek PR resources who have deep familiarity with their industry. The result: a growing number of niche PR agencies offering specific domains of expertise.

But what happens when a company wants a mix of all of the above? A client might require expertise in one subject area at a certain point in time – e.g., cybersecurity – but as their business grows and expands they may need subject matter expertise in several other domains.

The obvious answer is the traditional answer – hire a big agency that can do it all. But as we’ve pointed out before, this is generally much more expensive and therefore prohibitive for many companies.

There is a viable alternative, however. I believe we are entering an era of “blended“ PR services – a combination of consultants and niche agencies that can offer a broad cross-section of high-level expertise as needed, and at a rate that works for budget-conscious clients.

So, what are the benefits of this blended approach for clients?

First, it allows for the creation of teams that can focus on high-impact work. Consultants can be hired on a project basis with a clearly defined scope of work and contribute to a results-oriented service which meets a specific need. When the project is completed, the client and consultant can simply part ways or renegotiate on future deliverables.

Similarly, alliances between like-minded agencies will allow them to create a blended offering – again, as their clients need it. For example, a client that regularly requires PR expertise in the financial technology space may reach a point where it requires public affairs expertise to manage an emerging regulatory issue. The result: clients pay for the high-impact services they need, when they need it.

The second benefit this approach offers is flexibility. Need a social media expert for a specific project? Then hire a consultant with the right skills to work with your agency. Love your dedicated account manager but need a bigger team with a broader skill set to handle an emerging crisis? Deploy the skills of a specialized crisis communications agency that can complement your existing resources. The ability to scale to the level of service you need without being tied to a fixed agency structure (which too often relies on junior staffing) gives client of all sizes and budgets the ability to hire the best resources.

The third benefit of the blended approach is that it encourages fresh thinking about PR services. No matter how experienced we all are, everyone benefits from a new perspective. Alliances between like-minded but different agencies and consultants create the opportunity for new ideas and strategic insights.

The world of work is changing. PR professionals must recognize that client expectations are evolving, too. The practice of paying expensive retainers to large agencies for services they don’t always need, just in case they might need them, is becoming increasingly obsolete. A growing network of skilled consultants and niche PR agencies are forming alliances and offering clients the benefits of paying only for the services they need when they need them and the flexibility to scale teams up or down as circumstances dictate, all while ensuring high-quality results.