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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A Pleasant Minnesota Surprise for PRWeek Editor-in-Chief

In his first trip to Minnesota, Steve Barrett, editor-in-chief of PRWeek, learned that his perceptions of our state were quite different from the reality.

"I saw 'Fargo' and I know that Prince lived here," Barrett told a group of approximately 60 public relations professionals and students. "You have something green called grass, which we don't have in Manhattan."

At the Minnesota PRSA event hosted by Carmichael Lynch Spong, Barrett discussed what's driving agency growth, how PRWeek is changing, and how agencies are evolving.

Steve Barrett, editor-in-chief of PRWeek
Calling this "the most exciting time to be writing about PR and to be in the communications industry," Barrett said that integration is the way of the future for public relations agencies.

With skills perfectly suited to the modern media environment, PR professionals are integrating with the marketing and investor relations fields like never before.

Barrett pointed out that last year PR agencies were up 10 percent, while the national gross domestic product was up 1.7 percent. Social media and content generation are two of the keys to that growth -- providing PR agencies a way to bypass traditional media and, in the case of social media, a cheaper way to connect with customers.

"Advertising is expensive," Barrett said. "As the saying goes, 'Fifty percent of advertising is effective, and we don't know which half.'"

This growth could lead to a billion-dollar agency possibly within the next five to 10 years.

Other aspects of this growth include globalization -- particularly in Latin America and China -- with agencies filling in the gaps to have a consistent offering around the world.

Three years ago, PRWeek changed its format to a monthly print publication, and continues to evolve.

"It's hard to peer into the crystal ball, although I can say we are integrating print with digital," Barrett said. "We have 22,000 Twitter followers and a YouTube channel. Our Tumblr blog is perfect for stories that wouldn't make the front page of the website."

Although there are no plans for a PRWeek iPad app, changes on tap for PRWeek include:  more special events, possibly a more global perspective, and more webcasts.

In regard to agency trends, Barrett noted that agencies are getting to become choosier about their clients and in which RFPs they participate.

He added that measurement continues to be the holy grail. Agencies -- and corporations -- are building their own analytics tools but are secretive about it because of the inherent competitive advantage.

Speaking of transparency, Barrett also touched on the mistakes that caused the CEO of Yahoo! to resign, as well as Best Buy's CEO and founder to give up their positions.

"Everything is transparent these days," Barrett said. "You're playing Russian roulette if you think that something isn't going to come out."

Feel free to come back to Minnesota anytime, Steve. Maybe you can experience the joy of a good snowball fight or the thrill of catching a big walleye while ice fishing.

-- Brant Skogrand, APR, MBC / Skogrand PR Solutions, LLC