At a pace only Superman could appreciate, two announcements this week highlighted just how quickly things are changing in the communications business.
First, the behemoth $500 million in revenues PR agency FleishmanHillard, announced that not only was it rebranding itself (they took out the dash separating the two names and eliminated a space between names, wow), but that it is no longer to be known as a PR firm but “the world’s most complete communications firm” (nothing like a little humility). From now on, FleishmanHillard added they would be conducting PR, Social Media, and (OMG!) Advertising all under the same roof. They are also going to write, design and distribute a magazine for the “C” suite audience. A veteran “BusinessWeek” journalist is going to be the editor. In their own words (I swear I could not make this up) “we are the media,” announced the agency.
So from the agency side of the communications business virtually all forms of communications are being consolidated so brands can speak to their audiences with one voice. My only question is, “What took so long?” Many of us in the mid-size and small agency world have been doing exactly that for our clients for years. If imitation is the greatest form of flattery, consider me flattered.
The other announcements came from the in-house communications world. VISA and FedEx announced that they merged their marketing and communications departments. A few weeks earlier IBM and P&G said that they were going to have their communications and marketing departments, while separate, report to one senior executive.
So the walls have come down. Advertising, Social Media and PR are increasingly being managed under a single entity called communications. Why? Because the communications industry has changed. Media relations, arguably the single most important function of a PR agency has decreased in significance as the world of traditional media and journalism has shrunk dramatically. In its place has come Social Media; a communications tool that has allowed agencies to bypass the journalist and reach target audiences directly and with unquestioned results. Further, program effectiveness can be measured as never before, and in near real time.
For those agencies and communications executives that “get it,” this is both a terrifying and exhilarating time. I learned a long time ago, the only thing we can count on in life is change. Truer words were never spoken.