Integration and the right side of the brain

JBonney

Public Relations has evolved into more than just press releases and white papers. PR agencies are creating messaging, doing media and blogger outreach, crisis management, and even creative and social content creation (to name a few), all with the goal of getting measurable results for clients. PR pros bring brands to life by telling their stories. They make these stories compelling and inspiring, and they make it personal. But words alone don’t do the trick. Not anymore. Agencies need (here comes the word every agency is using)…

 

Integration.

Today, Public Relations agencies need to do it all to stay competitive. They need teams with diverse backgrounds - law, journalism, multiple languages, corporate responsibility, social strategy and creative - are all necessary to give clients what they demand. Agencies that can’t keep up will get left in the dust.

I have witnessed it work several times. I have seen the changes a little integration can make right before my eyes. I have a story to tell (not too shocking that someone in PR would), and maybe even words of wisdom from an artsy gal in a PR world. Integration may be a buzzword, but trust me, it works.

I am the Creative Director at PAN Communications. I have been a designer in the PR environment for almost 7 years. When I made the switch from an in-house creative team to a communications agency I had no idea what I was in for. I went from a blissful world with few deadlines, large print runs and no budget limitations to what at first seemed like a dismal place. People said things like “building the airplane in the air”??? Everything was liked and shared, but rarely printed. And budget? If you work in the PR industry, you know that every second counts.

A creative team in a public relations agency was new at the time. The success of our team relied on proposing creative ideas to clients who had their own designers or creative agencies and didn’t see much value in creative beyond the PowerPoint presentation. It was slow at first. Clients didn’t want allocate more budget for creative projects, and account teams were reticent to ask for it. We survived on scraps: the occasional event invitation, a pretty postcard, and of course… presentation templates.

There is a movie commonly quoted, “If you build it, they will come.” And the crazy thing is…they did! We started upselling those event invitations and before too long we were doing all of the creative for client launch events. We took those pretty editor mailings and included t-shirts and lookbooks. If they wanted a menu for their food truck sampling, we wrapped the whole flipping food truck! We were finally turning the corner. We were survivors. We worked closely with our clients and account teams from the start of a brainstorm. We batted around campaign ideas and event themes. We managed video shoots, and pitched identity programs to clients Don Draper style (minus the whiskey and cigarettes). Then one day, accounting took all our hard work, our blood, our sweat and our tears, added it all up (carry the 1, subtract the 5) and found out that our hard work paid off.

Our little engine was turning a profit. We became valuable. Creative had become necessary.

A lot has changed for us designers in the last seven years. Event invitations have become eVites, white papers have become infographics, and everything needs to be shareable on every social channel. But, as I say to my fellow right-brainers… design is design.

I am at a new agency now, and my small part of the integration plan is looking good. The account teams are on board, our clients are happy and they’re seeing bang up results. There is no place to go but up. Even if you hate buzzwords (moving forward, synergy, impact), try on “integration” for size. If you don’t, well, prepare to be left behind.

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