Let’s face it, the communication agency model is broken. I know that sounds dramatic, but it’s true. I don’t care if you’re a PR, advertising, marketing, or integrated agency. All of you are suffering under the weight of rampant organic growth and service creep and it’s killing you. Even worse, it’s killing clarity of message and effectiveness of business leadership. I should know, I served as the SVP of an integrated agency for almost a decade.
In a way agencies are a victim of their own success. For decades businesses have relied on agencies to tell their story and that made sense, because to create ads, or a PR event you needed specialists. Every time a company like Coca-Cola struck a home run with the “I’d like to teach the world to sing” campaign dozens of competitors picked up their rotary phones and called creative agencies to try to mimic their success.
At first the lines between agencies were clear, need a creative ad campaign go to a advertising agency, need to manage the press go to a PR Agency and if you weren’t sure where your audience was, well then bring in the Marketing Agency. But then channels started to explode, three TV channels multiplied into hundreds, one local magazine exploded into dozens of magazines, national papers, and cable news. Then the internet blew us all out of the water by democratizing communications. Suddenly a fervent gossip writer in his bedroom could take on People Magazine. This ultimately blurred the lines. Popular tag-lines, news stories, and viral ads could come from anywhere and from anyone. Today it’s just as likely that a brand will approach an Instagram star to become their mascot as it is for that brand to create a new original mascot. To answer this increased complexity agencies grew their capabilities to adapt. PR agencies added creative teams and marketing experts. Marketing teams added PR people and designers….etc etc etc.
But as the number of channels grew and the complexity to get a message out grew business leaders got further and further away from the process of telling their own stories. Can you blame them? Instead of just working with one team at an agency over a 6 month period to create one ad, leaders are now delegating the never ending process of multichannel execution to their heads of marketing, brand managers, brother-in-law, basically anyone who can invest the time and focus on the daunting process. Those surrogates are now trying to figure out what the president or board of directors are envisioning as the core purpose of a company.
So, I wanted out and I wondered if there was a way to simplify, to get back into the room one on one with the founders, presidents, inventors, and dreamers of companies. The answer to me seemed obvious, presentations. Presentations are never going away and they are one off attempts to explain your vision. They can be in front of an auditorium full of prospective clients but they can also be in front of your manufacturing team. Your deadline is imminent, you know when you’re going to have to deliver and more than likely you are being asked to speak to answer a focused question or address a specific concern.
If we as leaders can get better at explaining our vision and doing it in a moving way, with strong clear messaging, compelling visuals, and strong delivery, we can help our heads of marketing, advertising, and PR team understand where the core of the company is. They can then take that information and work more effectively with agency partners.
Best part? Presentations can be mini market research sessions. As you present you can look at your audience and feel what resonates and what falls flat. You can use that information to refine your message and make your next presentation even stronger. By doing this you can lay down a message that is understood and hopefully embraced company wide.
So, yup, we only do presentations but we believe they can be so much more. We believe they can add a bridge of communication back to the employees and vendor partners responsible for marketing. That in turn helps the current agency model work better. They can help agencies hear a message from the top and help them find their way out of the woods.