AJ co-founded TrendKite in 2012 and oversees all aspects of the organization’s sales operations.
PR industry professionals and analysts have written volumes about how the internet has changed the practice of public relations. The work we do today is profoundly different than it was just 20 years ago. Even in the last 10 years, social media has emerged as a whole new specialty. You can find thousands of articles on the subject. (A Google search for, "How the internet has changed PR," yeilds, 105,000,000 results.) What is talked about less is how the internet has changed agency/client relations. Just like the customers of the brands you represent now have more options and more information at their fingertips than ever before, so do your clients.
Competition for business now comes from not only other agencies, but also independent consultants who are now easily able to connect with clients across the globe, do-it-yourself technology that is rapidly becoming more powerful and services that claim to automate much of the work. PR like many services, is being commoditized. With that comes increased price pressure and decreased loyalty. Perhaps that’s the reason client/agency tenure has shrunk from more than seven years to less than three years. What’s an agency to do?
Simply executing on PR deliverables like press releases, pitches and earned media monitoring no longer provides enough value to retain clients. Agencies must turn their attention toward more strategic leadership to secure accounts. Competitive monitoring is an excellent example of a strategic need that is often neglected. Sure, most agencies do some level of competitor analysis, but most get so stuck on counting mentions or trying to calculate share of voice that they neglect the forward-looking plan development potential of competitive monitoring.
Take Your Eye Off of the Ball
The offensive skill of a basketball player isn’t assessed by his ability to go where the ball is. The ability to go where the ball is going to be is what sets players apart. It isn’t difficult to react to what a competitor just did. It’s far more impressive, and valuable, to be able to anticipate their next move and deploy either an offensive or defensive strategy well in advance. Comprehensive, automated and intelligent competitive monitoring can give your agency the insight to provide just this type of coaching to clients. In doing so, you can stop your client from thinking of your service as a commodity that should be purchased for the lowest price, and instead help them see you as an irreplaceable partner.
And By the Way ….
As you think about the strategic value of competitive monitoring for your clients, why not think about what it might mean to your agency? Just like you can uncover the strengths, weaknesses and message trends of your client’s competitors, you can do the same for yours. Yes, there are thousands of potential competitors, but tracking those who are local, or even the largest players in the space can give you valuable information about how others are messaging around new challenges and what conversations are resonating with audiences and authors.
The PR industry is not doomed, as some might want us to believe, but we are witnessing an, “evolve or die” moment. Half measures won’t be enough to attract clients and keep them around. Competitive monitoring is one way of elevating your strategic value. There are others, so check back as we continue the discussion.