Punch started life as a PR company. And in some regards – often depending on who I’m speaking to and how I believe they understand and identify with the PR sector – we are still a PR company, based on the broad definition of helping brands manage influence, impact and reputation to outside parties.
It’s just that the industry used to primarily orbit around the broadcast and print media, whereas now the traditional media, a one-to-many mechanism for conveying a message, is just one of many tools in a brands’ arsenal, with social media and google based considerations becoming of ever greater importance to marketers.
Whilst there are a great deal of commonalities between what we do today and what the PR industry did 15 years ago, there are also some massive, tangible differences. Here are our tips on how to stay relevant amidst changing times.
Surround yourself with people that invite change
The best tip we picked up in the last decade and a half has been that it’s essential to find and work with the right people. If you have to choose between someone who is in high demand as a specialist today but is inflexible in thinking, versus someone who is a little less commercially relevant but demonstrates a high aptitude for adaptability, then the latter may be a better long-term bet – particularly when you sense that change is looming.
Rotate between big steps and small steps
Big steps are scary but sometimes, incremental evolution just isn’t enough. So find a pattern that works for you – and I suggest that a balance of small changes with the occasional re-direction can work well, to ensure you’re headed the right way. In our case, the rise of the social web meant an increase in the importance of visual creative services – whereas traditional PR often favoured words over pictures.
At some point, that necessitated one of several big changes, with lots of small steps both before and afterwards.
Identify and work to your team’s strengths
PR companies are highly specialist – particularly when focussed on a specific market sector – and, historically, could only respond to a brief with a PR offering. However, we looked within, understood what skillsets were at the heart of the people within the traditional PR industry – notably, communication and storytelling – and put a great deal of time and energy into making our business stay relevant amidst a new type of client demand.
Learn and adapt
Whatever you think when you start the process of change, you will undoubtedly revise that view many times. A robust process for self-analysis to ensure that a course can be reset is extremely valuable. We upped our game in terms of compiling, interpreting and acting upon data. So, it has simply been a matter of applying that same rigour to our ourselves – and being brave enough to admit when and where we’ve gone wrong.
Whether you choose evolution, revolution or a bit of both, it is nerve wracking when you push into uncharted areas. The best advice I can offer on this is to commit. Back yourself, your team and your offering. Stay nimble but don’t let the scale of the change overwhelm you.
Ultimately, there’s no perfect solution for how to stay relevant. But, if you are willing to stay open-minded, are surrounded by people that enjoy the opportunities that change brings and approach each new development as a challenge and opportunity, then you give yourself the best chance.
Pete Goold is founder of full service social media agency Punch Communications