Georges Najm, partner and manager of Noise, the PR unit of Beirut-based ad agency Clémentine talks to ArabAd about the central role public relations agencies continue to play while realigning their strategies to benefit both, the client and consumers.
The state of the PR industry is generating some heated debate, as many communication professional argue that ‘PR agencies’ are already dying out and will cease to exist in the next ten years. What's your say?
It is true that there are some theories claiming that PR agencies are dying. Some go further to assure that, within a couple of years, they would even cease to exist. Business reality does not in any way support such claims and never will. PR agencies are not dying out and will certainly be there in 10 years, 20, and 50 years. PR agencies today are coping (and it’s obligatory) with the major disruptions imposed on all communication agencies, on top of which come advertising agencies, which constitute the very first victims.
If you have a look at the history of marketing in general, and of communication in particular, you would simply see that the changes that occurred in the last years are dramatic. It’s a communication revolution! From 1950 till 2000, very few things slowly evolved. From 2000 onwards, everything has changed incessantly and extraordinarily: a spectacular penetration of Internet everywhere in the world, a tremendously impressive invasion of social media networks, non-stop media technological breakthroughs, etc. Like any business, communication or other, industry actors who don’t adapt to such important changes are doomed to failure, or to death! Imagining the world of communication without PR is asking worldwide organisations, companies, and brands to simply cease talking and exchanging with their various communities. This is both hilarious and unimaginable! And because they wouldn’t in any way cease talking or exchanging, the latter would be (still and always) in need of professional PR agencies to handle this important aspect of corporate communication. This goes without saying that PR agencies have to seriously take into account the above-mentioned changes (amongst other things). In this regard, they must accompany the innovations in the universe of media (all categories including traditional media). They have to incessantly evolve with social and corporate changes occurring on their local and global markets. Doing so, they would definitely be there in the next 10 years.
The way PR is measured and evaluated has also changed, with less emphasis on outputs and more focus on how ideas have affected consumer behaviour and resulted in outcomes and business objectives. How has your PR strategy changed in the past 10 years? And what are the challenges you face today?
Since day one, when communication professionals added 'Public Relations' to their set of strategic communication tools and integrated the discipline into their communication mix, they had in mind 'consumers' and their 'behaviours'. Every single communication action thought and implemented went in this crucial direction. Today, this rule still and undoubtedly applies. Business objectives come first. Communication, amongst other various tools and 'weapons' available, is there to help achieve them. PR is in this regard facing numerous challenges, on top of which I would one more time cite major technological disruptions in the world of media. The traditional media we knew is either changing or even disappearing. New media outlets are born and seem to be proactively aggressive. Issues and causes spread faster. Consumer opinions (positive or negative) matter and weigh impressively more than they used to. Stories go systematically viral. The load of changes is unimaginable. PR strategies nowadays have to take those impressive changes into account and adapt their directions, orientations, and of course tools with them. They have to follow the consumers and interact with them, because each and every one of them has become an 'Opinion Leader' and a 'Journalist'. The changes gave power (at last?) to each and every connected citizen who is called on to be a 'Brand' or an 'Organisation' ambassador. Yes it’s a headache for PR agencies, but they will adapt and shift their efforts, in order to continue ensuring the management of their clients’ visibility, standing, image, perception, relations, community exchanges, and noise…