The Fill-In-The-Blank Agency?

IStock_000004159256XSmallThe inimitable Valeria Maltoni (a.k.a. The Conversation Agent) was kind enough to publish an interview with me on her well-read blog yesterday.  One of our exchanges is worth re-visiting here:


What do you think is in store for agencies in the next 3-5 years? Will PR agencies rethink their dependency on mainstream media? How is SHIFT integrating bloggers in its media outreach?

While the RFP process for PR agencies was relatively straightforward for the past 50 years, in the next 3 – 5 years agencies like SHIFT will need to suss out their proper role on a client-by-client basis:

Some clients will want a traditional Media Relations firm …

Some will want a Social Media specialty shop …

Some will want Content Creation (video, microsites, iPhone and Facebook apps) …

And smart clients will desire a hybrid model that incorporates all of the above – yet which could also potentially be sourced to an advertising agency.

Meanwhile, mainstream media relations will continue to be important, but ultimately no more or less important than Blogger Relations, Facebook Group Administrator Relations, etc. That’s the power of Social Media: when everyone has a printing press, everyone is important. And that is how SHIFT already operates today…


We’ve talked this week about the evolving interplay of Advertising and PR, I won’t belabor that topic again, but the point about “sussing out the agency’s role on a CLIENT BY CLIENT basis” presents a fascinating challenge nowadays.

We experience this with each and every newbiz call.  The question, “How did you hear about us?” used to be pretty rote — now it is critical.

If the prospect says, “I read Todd’s blog” (or a variation thereof), we know we can safely skew towards a “social call.”

If they say, “I found you guys on Google” it is more likely we should put on our more “traditional” hats and start off talking about our successes in mainstream media.

The key here is to be able to handle any and all such inquiries.  At SHIFT, for example, we obviously won’t ever claim to perform Advertising-related services… but, yea, we can create Facebook and iPhone apps; yea, we can help create and effectively distribute video content; yea, we can create and manage a Facebook Fan Page; and, yea — of course! — if the story is good we can get it in front of one of our good friends at USA TODAY and eWEEK, etc.

At this point some Sour Sam could, reasonably (if not justifiably) suggest “a jack of all trades is a master of none,” and it is true that we cannot always claim best-of-breed expertise in some of those areas.  Precious few agencies could.  However, that just points to the OTHER fascinating trend we’re seeing — of ever-more-interesting and fulfilling “best-of-breed” partnerships.

I am not going to personally code a Facebook app — in fact, I won’t even put a programmer on my payroll … why would I, when our preferred app development partners are winning awards for the apps they’ve already created for Fortune 1000 clients?

You see, just as the Web ostensibly allowed The Little Guy to compete against The Big Guys, Social Media has so disoriented the traditional Marketing landscape that there are now unprecedented opportunities for any type of agency to effectively string together a solution that truly works for the client.

Anyway, who doesn’t enjoy a game of “fill in the blank?”

Posted on: January 7, 2010 at 9:00 am By Todd Defren
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