By Max Tatton-Brown, founder Augur.
On the panel for the release of the last PRCA Digital report, I made myself a little unpopular by suggesting that larger agencies are stuck trying to be everything to everyone.
You want to meet media? We’ll do that. You want a little website? We’ll do that. You want video creation at a global standard? We’ll do that. You want to broadcast it live now? We’ll do that. You want advertising and media buy? We’ll do that.
We think differently. We should do less. And that starts with owners designing agencies that not only talk about PR differently – but make it demonstrably different at the point of delivery.
The point is, more than ever: our PR is not your PR.
Let’s go back a step.
Dot Dot Dot Com
Back around the year 2000, a range of tech PR agencies were born in parallel with the dot com boom. In that world PR still meant media relations. But even so, the founding teams still led in different directions that created individual cultures.
Fifteen years later, most of the founders have stepped back, sold or moved on. The agencies are largely driven by directors who (understandably) want to hit their targets to get their bonuses. And the world has changed.
The range of tools, backgrounds and opportunities relating to PR have only broadened, and so, the scope of founders to have a strong, opinionated idea of what they think a good strategy looks like is greater than ever.
For this reason, I think it’s no co-incidence we’re seeing a new range of founders launching PR agencies, and each with an even clearer and more distinct take on how they balance the marketing mix.
However, we believe there’s one thing that the successful ones share in common – focus.
Do less, better
For example, Augur exists to focus on strategic plans and implementation – above all else.
Everything we do is designed, and redesigned toward that priority. For us, it’s a more important core competency than any specific hands on skill or specialism, and that means there are many types of work and projects we choose not to do.
That means, despite the fact I’ve written for all sorts of publications and our team includes members trained by the BBC, we choose not to sell our time writing. Instead, we use that experience to be a great editor, and consider how an editor would generate great material.
That’s the thinking behind Augur Edits – instead of developing ideas that imitate journalists, we brief them and invite ideas they would normally pitch to top tier editors.
Similarly, we don’t believe the future of this industry is in high-pressure ‘sell-ins’ where you claim your value is being able to smash your way into the news agenda and justify every call and ‘did you get my press release?’ Instead, Augur Unbound is a programme by which we will pitch good stories to influencers, for free, from anyone who really needs it.
These are both media-facing examples, partly because we believe that’s a key workflow to optimise away from the old-fashioned muscle memory. In both cases, we take the heritage of PR skills and understanding but distill the value to complement our core focus: writing, implementing and evaluating ongoing strategy.
We need understanding of the broad range of areas to factor them in. But pretending you can build a scalable business based around finding an endless supply of ‘jack-of-all-trades’ doesn’t seem credible to me.
It seems big agencies can’t do this. Directors don’t have the incentive to sack half their staff and clients, just so they can recenter toward a different proposition. It’s really rare for them to lay out and execute on a vision in the way founders can’t help but do.
When the incentives don’t align for everyone else, that leaves the responsibility with founders like us to really explore the alternatives we believe in.
And that doesn’t start with a definition, it starts with action.
Image courtesy of pixabay