Communications today is as alive and interactive as we are ourselves: verbal and visual, connected anywhere and everywhere, and moving fast. Just look at The Daily for iPad. It’s the future of publishing, and by extension, the future of what kind of content we, as communicators, need to deliver.
Communications is a content industry. Forrester’s Sean Corcoran articulated that well in his report over a year ago on Earned, Owned and Paid Media. Since then much has been written about how agencies are adapting, with varying degrees of success, to the new realities in communications and media (Forrester’s great race to relevance).
At the same time, many CMOs prefer working with best of breed agencies – specialists in a single discipline – in PR, interactive, advertising and social media. We argue that best of breed doesn’t have to mean one-trick pony. The silos that separated these disciplines are disappearing and everything is converging into a more holistic, albeit sometimes messy, far more interesting discipline that we call Digital Communications.
An agency that can combine aspects of PR, social media, interactive and advertising to create and coordinate branded content of all kinds is in the catbird seat with CMOs. These service offerings are no longer mutually exclusive: you really can’t have one without the other. At the end of the day, it’s all content and storytelling regardless of whether it’s paid, earned or owned. A story must be approached in all the many ways it will be delivered and consumed: through a coordinated combination of many different functions, formats and mediums. Going are the days where you got your web site from a web design firm, and your business press coverage from a PR firm. When our clients come to us and tell us they need to launch their latest new product, it’s a much bigger conversation than “Who’s going to write the press release?” We have to think more broadly. It’s about solving business problems and having a different conversation, having a bigger seat at the table. It comes down to asking, “Why?” and “What do you really want to accomplish?” It’s about applying everything in the communications wheelhouse to exploiting an opportunity or solving a problem. Our clients’ programs are rich and multi-faceted with video, microsites, community development, mobile apps, events and yes, press releases too.
There have been plenty of growing pains since we first introduced interactive design more than seven years ago. Days early on we asked, “Okay, how do we sell a website to a PR director?” But it’s never been clearer that there is real harmony – both strategic and tactical value – in the digital communications model. Some of the secrets to the model that we’ve learned along the way are to have a balance of generalists who can run a program from A to Z as well as specialty talent in areas like design, information architecture, development, project management. Many agencies fail to go deep with in-house talent in specialty or technical areas making it impossible to actual execute on great ideas. After talent, the other trick is infrastructure – setting up the best practices, tools and training that allow you to communicate openly and fluidly across disciplines and teams.
The point is, this is probably one of the most exciting times in our business because we get to be more, do more, learn more, and have more power to really be valuable. That’s what we all want, right? To be valuable and to make a difference. Now that is something worth shooting for!