PR agencies are facing another pivotal point in their history.
It’s similar to the dot-com boom-and-bust cycle of 20 years ago, where there was first incredible innovation and growth, followed by a dramatic pullback. Today, we’re seeing shrinking revenues, increasing competition that has caused layoffs, a renewed quest for identifying unique talent and even mega-mergers like this week’s big Burson Cohn & Wolfe announcement.
So, agencies continue to evolve out of necessity. But what will help the industry thrive in the future?
In a recent article in The Holmes Report, Richard Edelman stressed the need to be searching for ways to evolve. Edelman, the president and CEO of Edelman, the world’s largest PR agency, offered some specific advice: firms need to become more adept at leveraging digital platforms to drive better employee communication.
He’s exactly right.
In fact, many agency leaders have known for years about the tremendous opportunities to mobilize the power of employees as brand advocates. Michael Brito, Executive Vice President of Zeno Group, just published a book, “Participation Marketing,” dedicated to how companies can unleash employees to participate and become brand storytellers. But that potential can only be harnessed when leveraging digital platforms that enable organizations to communicate with employees in a genuine, authentic manner.
Employee communication plays directly into the strengths of PR agencies, who have the experience, knowledge, and resources to help their clients navigate a rapidly changing global marketplace that requires new strategies and thinking. PR is firmly planted in the power of communication strategies – both to the public and internal, working together to generate affinity and reputation protection.
“We know that it’s never been more difficult for organizations, especially large ones, to communicate with their employees,” said Bob Pearson, Vice Chair, Chief of Innovation at the marketing-communications firm W2O Group. “That’s why we see incredible value when organizations leverage the experience of an agency to build programs with the best platforms to help them reach their employees. That’s a powerful combination.”
And yet, employee communication as it exists today is broken. This is partly due to the fact that the workplace is in flux. The “office” is no longer a given. For example, Gallup’s 2017 State of the American Workplace report found that 43 percent of employees now work in a remote fashion. Other workers have remote-hybrid arrangements, while even more are embracing flexible working spaces. And did you know when employees do have access to a company intranet (many don’t even have that), only 13 percent of employees say they visit it daily and 31 percent say they never do, according to Prescient Digital Media?
Despite the advent of new communication technology “solutions,” it’s becoming harder for organizations to reach those “disconnected” workers who are on factory floors, driving trucks, standing behind cash registers, stocking shelves or even providing healthcare in homes and in hospitals.
But organizations need the innovative platforms to create the engagement for that to occur.
As strategic partners in communications, PR agencies have deep insights into how to effectively connect with key constituents and build trust using a brand’s own digital native, mobile-enabled workforce. It’s why companies turn to them for assistance when it comes to building strong employee communications programs.
Agencies are experts at:
- Bringing out the best in storytelling
- Empowering employees as the best brand ambassadors
- Understanding the need to communicate with employees on their terms
There’s a critical need to modernize employee communication with modern, streamlined platforms. PR agencies can be at the forefront of that transformation. Make sure yours is thinking about how to make that happen.
Adam Keats will moderate a panel at SXSW featuring Bob Pearson from W2O and Cydney Roach, EVP, Employee Engagement, Edelman that focuses on fostering greater trust in a time of digital transformation. Come listen to their discussion on Sunday, March 11 at 10 a.m. at The Patio at Lambert’s, 401 W. 2nd St., Austin, TX 78701. For more information and to register, click here.