Is the world getting smaller? That’s always been something of a truism. With technological advances in communications and the march of mass culture into every corner of the planet, it not only takes a split second for news to happen in one part of the world before it is consumed in another. In this new, globalized environment, many of us are experiencing important events in the same way. That makes the world a smaller place.
To illustrate this, in the last six months, the fastest growing part of our business has been our cross-border work. We’re providing communications strategy, media and content solutions for organizations who need to project into multiple, global money and media markets. They want to do this strategically (reach the right audiences), effectively (achieve the desired influence) and efficiently (creative and well managed solutions to make their budgets go as far as possible). This, in my mind, shrinks the world even more.
This also presents a new challenge for the PR industry. Since the 1980’s, the PR business has believed that to provide global solutions the agency needs to be big. That means taking the home office hierarchical model – the classic “PR pyramid” of a few senior executives and a small army of juniors – and duplicating it everywhere in the world where there is business to be had.
The obvious benefit of that model is scale. Every office offers every service to every type of client. However, the drawback is that it firstly isolates the agency within one market, and secondly, commoditizes the solution set. No PR agency can be all things to all people. Organizations today need specialist core competencies, perspectives and solutions. They also need to think beyond their own borders.
The big, global agency model also produces an ironic and non-client-friendly economic outcome: the commoditization of anything should lower the fees, but the opposite occurred. Big agencies charge big fees. In part, that’s because the model creates a lot of costly infrastructure, which begins with real estate. Then, consider that many of them are owned by publicly-held conglomerates with corporate allocations to be paid and shareholder interests to address.
Reflecting on that, I now know why our cross-border architecture – or what we call our “Centers of Excellence” – and our “super boutique” independence has become so appealing to our global client set:
First, while we have offices in New York and London, we are investing in new emerging, infrastructure ideas, from flexible real estate solutions to conferencing technology. These innovations support our cross-border culture and enable us to work almost anywhere in the world. We engage with editors, reporters, producers, bloggers and influencers in over a dozen media markets. And yes, it helps that our executives speak five languages between them, and hail from as many countries!
Second, we see audience targeting and communications as dynamic, and so allocate client budgets accordingly. In other words, in one strategic timeframe audiences in the Nordics, U.K., and U.S. markets will have priority, in that order, and in another strategic timeframe it will be Canada, Switzerland, and Germany. This delivers outcomes more strategically and efficiently, and thus achieves results where they will have the most impact.
Third, our corporate culture is infused with an entrepreneurial and worldly praxis. This not only benefits our clients, but also inspires our executives. Brexit and Trump-ism notwithstanding (and thank you French voters for the reminder that the world is not flat!) We also believe in inclusiveness and diversity; we hire people with non-traditional backgrounds, and place a high premium on excellence in everything we do.
The world is indeed getting smaller. Achieving influence and having impact in it means we need to, as the Apple ad said, “think different.” Or, to amend that, “think and do different.”
All the best,
Montieth M. Illingworth
May 10, 2017
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