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16 October 2019

Attack is the best form of defence

We’ve recently finished presenting the results of the latest edition of the PR SCOPE which we’ve carried out at SCOPEN since 2009. The study is starting to become bigger and the conclusions from the 2009 edition don’t look much like the ones we saw 10 years ago, although there are still things which never change.

10 years ago, Communications Consultancies (they were called Agencies then) had a very clear business niche in which they operated relatively quietly, fighting amongst themselves for business (generally low paid business), but one in which no one interfered. Over the years, with the crisis becoming more acute, freelancers, events agencies and smaller digital agencies etc who needed to grow/survive proliferated and therefore, they started to offer communications services. Not just specialised services like crisis areas, finance, corporate, public affairs… but a global PR service, which together with Digital and Content Generation, started to be a service further within the famous Integration. But afterwards, creative and media agencies also started to offer it, and nowadays hardly any agencies don’t include it in their services portfolio / PR and Communications capabilities. And all of that without relying on many clients. Over time, internal communications teams have been strengthening…

They might seem like a few hopeless has-beens, but here is where the famous phrase applies: “attack is the best form of defence”. It could be a phrase from Valdano (football fans will have heard it many times), but it was Sun Tzu who first said it in ‘The Art of War’. And it can be applied to any aspect of life, such as, for example, the marketing and communication sector.

We’re not saying anything new by saying that we’re in a time in which the lines which separate Marketing, Advertising or Communication and their specialties, are increasingly more blurred, if they haven’t already disappeared. For that reason, when other agents become your competitors, if you only only defend your own walls, the best thing that can happen to you is you stay as you were before, but if you want to survive and grow, you have to attack.

So, in 2019 we’re finding Communications Consultants who are hungry for growth and have started to target areas which in the past didn’t form a part of their niche. The teams are increasingly more multi-disciplinary: there are specialist teams in Data, in Digital, and Creativity (and not just thinking about content but instead big ideas); some of them are growing towards offering Paid Media services (especially those that don’t belong to any international holdings companies), trying to further their research to Earned Media; and others are starting to focus on strategic input in order to stop being providers and become partners (generally better paid).

But is all this a reflection in line with what Communications Consultants’ clients are asking for? It seems that it is, when more than half of clients ask for their Consultants to be integrated and within this integration, creative solutions and digital capabilities are key and media services are very similar to those asked of an integrated creative agency. It is, because 41% of the communication budget already goes to Digital (an increase of 4% in the last 2 years) and when 34% of said budget is already earmarked for paid media (increasing almost 10%, the same as earned media has decreased). It is, because when it comes to deselecting a consultant, the aspects which are more relevant today than in previous editions are Strategy and Digital. It is, because when it comes to defining the ideal consultant, once you’re already working with them, there are 3 areas which are much more important than in previous editions: customer service (closely linked to the professional team, their involvement, experience and proactivity), capabilities in research and data (which should be used to demonstrate the effectiveness of work, because we don’t talk about intangible factors much), digital (ever closer to the field of innovation) and lastly, strategic capability (however, strategic contribution is the last step of the pyramid, you can’t get there without climbing all the other steps).

Communications Consultants have entered the playing field with new weapons to fight with hand-to-hand and we’ll have to see how the battle transpires…

Submitted by:
Héctor Abanades
Research Manager