4 Defining Characteristics of a Modern PR Agency
What does it mean to be a modern PR agency these days? There are 3 characteristics of a modern PR firm. Today’s modern PR firms are trust-focused, digitally savvy, purpose forward, and customer-obsessed. This means modern PR agencies can think long-term while staying nimble enough to be a strategic and operational resource in today’s fast-moving world. It’s difficult to do both, but that’s why modern PR agencies are so valuable.
Can a legacy PR firm also be a modern PR firm? Absolutely. And, a new PR firm isn’t necessarily more modern than a legacy PR firm. Digital PR firms aren’t necessarily more modern than those who focus on earned media. That’s because our characteristics supersede age and services and for depth and maturity. Depth and maturity are particularly important for fast-growing brands and hyper-growth companies because these companies need the savvy and emotional intelligence of a modern PR firm so they can stay nimble and focused.
Modern PR firms are trust-focused. Consumers today are incredibly savvy. After all, we’re exposed to roughly 10,000 messages a DAY. To understand why trust is so important to modern PR, we have to go way, way, back into how we evolved. Our brains haven’t quite evolved to deal with this kind of input, so as a result, we manage this input in our subconscious. One of the most basic human survival functions is trust, that’s why we organize into social tribes. We trust our social tribes. See where this is headed?
Today, our default reaction to almost anything is suspicion – even our most established institutions get the side-eye. 6 out of 10 adults say they distrust something until they see evidence.
While there are initial trust signals, trust is the long game. Trust signals need to be consistent and thorough. Consumers today quickly recognize brands who say one thing, but do another. They recognize greenwashing, they see through insincerity. But it’s not just the cost of distrust that hypergrowth and fast-growing brands need to consider, it’s also the advantages of trust.
Which means we trust brands who act and signal in ways that we trust. Our source of trust can come from several signals, but earned media, that is coverage where a brand, or person, is characterized in a trusted outlet and/or trusted person in an independent and organic manner.
Trust becomes a brand cornerstone because trust begets loyalty and loyalty begets advocacy. Trust is also a considerable cornerstone to brand value. You can’t really have considerable brand value without considerable trust. And damaged trust, on a grand scale is incredibly expensive to repair.
That’s why modern PR firms place an important emphasis on trust – because they know that’s what their clients are really after. It also takes discipline for a modern PR agency to stay trust-focused, for the same reason it takes discipline to be a trusted brand-there are indeed short-term shortcuts that look good today, but can have devastating affects in the future.
A GREAT modern PR firm will help you define a wide range of strategics and values and aligned KPIs so you can track your trust-building efforts.
Modern PR firms are digitally savvy. This doesn’t “only” mean they understand social media. It also means they understand how to earn trust in digital formats from forums to social media. It means they know how PR and SEO can work together, and where they separate. Digitally savvy PR firms are monitoring review sites, your search results, and other digital signals for red flags. Digitally savvy PR firms understand how earned media, paid media, social media and owned media work together and how to pull the levers of each type of media for a stated campaign aim.
Digitally savvy PR firms also have their pulse on other avenues growing in influence. For example, media relations today include trusted magazines, blogs, and increasingly newsletters. Newsletters are an outstanding example of trust AND digital intelligence. Think about it – if you’ve given your email to receive a newsletter in your inbox, that’s a big trust signal. Several years ago, newsy newsletters took on renewed relevance and when Substack courted journalists, it was another endorsement for newsy newsletters. Some of Substack’s email publishers are making well over $100K per year on subscriptions. Newsletter impressions and reach are difficult to track, but that’s offset by the incredible trust value they bring. While the “ROI” might be difficult to pinpoint, the digitally savvy PR firm knows how to evaluate newsletter appearances
Using digital tools wisely also helps a modern PR firm deeply understand your customers or target customers. Our deep analysis isn’t only observational, it’s data driven from a multitude of sources, that give us a wide view of what’s happened, and what is likely to happen. We also use a multitude of sources to engage on a deeper level with journalists.
Because consumers are aligning with their tribes, it’s more and more important for brands to align with a larger purpose. Purpose, like trust, is an inside-out job. Purpose HAS to be authentic. The good news is that for most brands, there actually is an authentic purpose; it’s just a matter of aligning that purpose with other campaigns, including sponsorship, social media, word of mouth, and earned media.
From an earned media perspective, it’s rarely enough to have a purpose. It’s important that brands today activate on purpose and align on purpose. There’s no doubt that purpose can be a landmine, so that’s where public relations comes in. Modern PR firms are emotionally intelligent and able to guide brands on choices that may be consistent with their stated purpose. PR can help guide ad campaigns, sponsorship, and influencer campaigns to improve outcomes and brand reputation.
How can a PR agency help its clients improve trust, loyalty, and brand if it isn’t client obsessed? Now, your definition of client obsessed might differ from someone else’s. That’s why it’s important to know the client characteristics that you really need. Do you need a PR agency that is on-call 24/7? Do you crave a stable, intelligent PR team that becomes an extension of your team? How does your PR firm stay aligned with your strategies and objectives, even as they change? Our entire model is based on your needs – from our Strategy Driven Pricing to our Product PR Sprints for DTC or CPG brands everything we do is designed to move the needle for you.
Today’s modern PR firms come in all sizes, from the extraordinarily large to the boutique. But to be a truly modern PR firm, it takes a village, so it’s not enough to have a micro-agency or freelancer. No one person can see the entire landscape alone. Smart agencies hire emotionally intelligent team members. At Avaans, we hire emotionally intelligent PR executives. Our experienced team has successful track records and comes from an array of backgrounds. That’s why we call our team the A-Team. If you’re a fast-growing or hyper-growth or ambitious brand, and you’d like a modern PR firm that’s also experienced, please reach out to us.