How Influence is Shifting & Why it Matters – A Look at the PR Week Power List

Posted by: in Inside WCG on July 5, 2010

When industry changes, so do its influencers, so I found it rather instructive to look at the new PRWeek Power List  that includes our CEO, Jim Weiss

What’s changed is fairly significant.  The leaders include several independent agency heads who have always followed their own path.  Folks like Richard Edelman and Margery Kraus.  Kudos to them.

It also includes visionary leaders of Fortune 100 companies, like Sally Susman, whose team is innovating communications in ways large and small.  No surprise to see Google and Disney and Wal-Mart among others.  All great leaders within great companies. 

The larger agencies presence is much smaller than I would expect.  And here is why I believe this to be the case.

The old model of big agencies is like a ball and chain.  It’s hard to figure out how to innovate beyond it.  The people running agencies are smart as ever, but their model is an impediment. 

Leaders want big picture, marketing-oriented thinking from us….they want us thinking like CMO’s, not silos, whether it is social media or creative or PR or other.  Synergy needs to be real and lived every day.

PR firms are too often thinking like PR people…..this is frustrating clients who want bigger, more  integrated thinking. Most PR firms are in major danger of becoming less relevant at a time when more opportunity than ever is leaking out of  the big agency model into next gen firms.

Clients are looking for great  ideas…..well rounded, measurable, game changing ideas and models and metrics.  They want next practices, not best practices.

What it means is that integration within a firm has to happen yesterday.  It is partly “how we do it”.  It is about the talent mix.  It is about encouraging our team to learn about new areas of the marketing mix.

We need to keep  hiring people from different backgrounds in the marketing spectrum, who will challenge our thinking/add new ideas/new ways to  move.  We should be asking ourselves if we are  hiring too many people who think the same way.  We want great PR people right next to great digital leaders right next to creative geniuses.  No silos,  just great teams.  We all raise our game as a result. 

The next gen agency is equally comfortable handling PR or social media or advertising or direct marketing or other opps as they arise and can do so in an efficient manner.  They won’t need to call on separate departments of separate people in separate P&Ls.  They will simply tap their team.  Agencies will either be ready when the market is ready or the opportunity will simply fly by.  Integration is happening today in ways never imagined 15 years ago when we started talking about it continually.

Jim is building this type of next gen firm every day at WCG .  We know it because we are living it.  It’s why I believe he made the power list.

Now back to work….

All the best, Bob Pearson

By: Bob Pearson

Bob is the President of W2O Group, an independent network of digital communications and marketing companies. He is an author, frequent speaker and instructor for Rutgers center for management development. After the success of his book Pre-Commerce, Bob is currently working on a new book on the future of media titled Storytizing that will be available in 2014. Prior to W2O Group, Bob worked as VP of Communities and Conversations at Dell to develop the Fortune 500’s first global social media function -- an industry-leading approach to the use of social media, as highlighted in the best seller, GroundSwell. Before Dell, Bob was Head of Global Corporate Communications and Head of Global Pharma Communications at Novartis Pharmaceuticals in Basel, Switzerland, where he served on the Pharma Executive Committee. He also serves on a variety of Boards in health and technology. Highlights include serving as an original member of the P&G digital advisory board and being appointed by the Governor of Texas to serve as chair and vice chair of the emerging technology fund for the State of Texas.

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8 Responses

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  1. Matt McGinnis said

    Bob, I think you are exactly right that integration is the key to success. An important aspect of that is deep integration between agency and client. If the agency isn’t aware of the core business needs of its clients, even the most creative integrated marketing, social media and PR recommendations will be off the mark. Big agencies sometimes have structural problems with maintaining that intimacy. The senior thinkers are just too darned expensive to be able to spend the time to stay abreast of the business. Nimble agencies find a way to stay connected, while maintaining the necessary objectivity. Those are the agencies that will continue to make the PRWeek Power List.

  2. Brian Reid said

    Bob —

    You hit the nail on the head. Jim lured me from journalism more than 4 years ago because he wasn’t chasing the next big trend in PR. He had a single-minded focus on getting wins for his clients. In a rapidly changing world, that meant building — and integrating — a team of senior-level people with real knowledge across a huge number of areas: experts who can launch huge consumer campaigns, experts who knew how to get in front of investors, experts who know the media landscape intimately, design experts that understood both pixels and pharmaceuticals, social media experts that deliver more than just convention wisdom.

    Jim has knitted those experts — and dozens more — together in a group where results come before talk and where questioning established wisdom is not only allowed but expected. Congrats, Mr. Weiss. The honor is well-deserved.

  3. Had the chance to sit down with Jim and a few team mates last week. I was blown away at his understanding of social media.

  4. Matt, spot on regarding integration and senior counsel. Our view is that no one is too senior to not be with clients all of the time. Spending time with clients is the first priority. If it’s not, I wonder what business folks think they are in? 🙂

  5. Zoe Healey said

    Bob, Brian, I agree with your assessment of the importance of broad experience, and why its a winning formula for the team Jim has built here at WCG.
    I believe that the best consultancy we can provide for our clients comes from a team, or individuals, who understand the big picture. The days of specialism are fading. Long live the ‘Jack’ – someone who has enough different influences to be able to join the dots in every situation, and help our busy clients strengthen their offering through synergies across different functions.
    As a former boffin, I’m proud of my diverse experience, and think it allows me to be of more value to the world than if I was still back in the lab – I feel exactly the same about my colleagues and this company.

  6. One of the biggest reasons I came to work at WCG was because, after working with dozens of PR firms as a client, I saw few who could really flex to do the work I needed. The emerging collaboration economy is going to be driving different kinds of products, services, and – most importantly – business models that are hard to even imagine today. That goes for all kinds of businesses – including today’s PR firms. Jim’s fluid idea of what WCG is and can be is going to allow us to go where our clients need us to be – and where few traditional PR firms will be able to follow.

  7. I’ll admit it still rubs me when I must to stop myself from saying “I work at a PR agency” because in my young, Gen-Y mind PR is the fully integrated package. But if others perceive ‘PR’ as a limited package, I’m happy to adjust my diction. Perception is everything.

    Having just started at WCG last week, I’m happy to have already felt the culture that “we deliver clients solutions through excellent communication” rather than “we execute PR tactics.” I’m happy knowing I’ve joined a force of bright minds who stand ready to move into the new media landscape.

  8. Alex Geiser said

    Bob, as I do not Twitter or anything like that. Shoot me a mail — Alex from Germany…

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