Bigger Isn't Always Better

Altimeter recently published a blog post titled, "How PR Lost Its Seat At The Digital Table (And How It Can Get It Back)." If you aren’t familiar with Altimeter, I highly recommend checking them out. They publish really insightful research on digital transformation, and I normally enjoy their work. But one part of this blog post just rang wrong to me.

When it comes to agencies, the best strategy is to either be big enough to devise, implement and scale social media and content strategies, or be small and focused purely on media relations. The big agencies like Omnicom and Publicis have the resources to offer a full scale of digital content solutions, including advertising, data analysis and web/mobile experience management. Smaller guys can excel at the core media relations function. But occupying the middle ground doesn’t pay off, because these companies either cost too much to just do media relations, or don’t have the resources, tools or people who can scale a digital content strategy.

I could not disagree more with this passage. Social and digital communications isn't property of only large agencies. Yes, they can offer more all-encompassing programs, but not every client needs to doing everything in digital. 

When I started at Ditto a year ago, we were almost solely focused on media relations. As our agency has matured, so have our offerings. Our clients aren’t asking for web/mobile experience management. But they are asking for content and channel strategies, things that we are executing well.

There is another reason this is a flawed way of thinking. As communications initiates continue to blend into one another, someone who does media relations still needs to understand how their part fits into the broader digital strategy. The author even calls this out:

PR can buy its way back to the digital table by contributing data that’s relevant to the customer experience. To do that, comms departments need to invest in ways to track actionable customer engagement data that goes beyond simple sentiment analysts. What content formats get the most engagement? What brand messages resonate the most? Through what media do customer discover the brand?

These are all digital elements that even media relations agencies need to know, even if they don't offer digital programs. An agency should never offer services that it can’t execute. But it also shouldn’t sit on the sidelines completely just because it isn’t big enough to offer what a mega-firm can.