The ad industry, always a more high profile change agent than PR, has largely driven the evolution in marketing and communications disciplines. From full service agencies, to below-the-line marketing companies, to specialist brand agencies - in the last few years we have seen them turn to communications, realizing the power of PR. Of course this was not all their own idea! Marketers, frustrated by the increasing costs of advertising, have begun to realize the far more credible and value-for-money power of leveraged editorial and consistent communications campaigns.
Many ad agencies have simply tacked on a PR division or aligned with a high profile PR agency to keep up with client demands for the super duper full service. Clever communications professionals have kept a watchful eye on this trend, and the last 18 months have seen several of these new species of communications and brand management agencies evolving.
One of this new breed is Orange Ink, which describes itself as a brand management consultancy that focuses on companies, which require advice and support on how to translate their communication objectives into true value. Orange Ink specialises in media management, internal brand support, crisis communication and pure tactical execution of a company's communication requirements to ensure the correct positioning and education of its brand reaches the right target markets.
With its core focus on servicing the requirements of organisations who seek advice and support on how to translate a company's communication objectives into true value, the company, which opened for business in June, has identified the growing need for companies to work with an agency that not only delivers a benchmarked return on investment (ROI), but can also offer the flexibility, agility and creativity needed when implementing a company's diverse communication requirements.
"The South African corporate market is beginning to understand the real benefits of partnering with a brand management agency," says Lara Magnus, co-director of Orange Ink. "However, there is a growing need for these organisations to have an agency that thoroughly understands its business requirements. This understanding ensures that the agency can correctly map clients communication strategies around their brand objectives to drive true value add at all times".
"It is this growing industry need, coupled with our enthusiasm and dedication to the communications field, that moulded our inspiration behind the company formation, says Meggan Quixley, co-director of Orange Ink. "We are passionate about implementing and maintaining communication strategies for our customers that not only service their immediate needs of transparency and correct market positioning, but also contributes to communication continuity and developing a sustainable industry perception."
Magnus explains why the team moved 'beyond PR': "I believe South Africa has seen the benefits of pure media management in terms of profiling a client's business and their offerings, and while PR's generally validate their 'existence' in terms of credible education of correct target audiences, traditional PR needs to move beyond the boundaries of distributing press releases and securing media interviews. Today, with the increase in market pressure for organisations to be seen as good corporate citizens, that are not only transparent with information but are considered good employers, business partners and suppliers, PR practioners need to account for this in their client 'go-to-market' strategy.
"Therefore, there is a need to drive the management of a brand in its holistic form - everything from employee communication, to direct customer interaction, sales, tender documents, media management, crisis management, stakeholder communication and investment into the community. If a brand is the definition of a company's reputation, then surely that reputation needs to be accounted for in all these aspects?"
In their opinion, PR sometimes adopts the 'silo' approach, rather than the true partnership approach, with clients. "To silo PR and brand management is short sighted - why not adapt the strength of each element to ensure you can offer a holistic communication service/solution and strategy to a client? Surely building long-term partnerships with a client is more beneficial?"
To do this effectively, Magnus says agencies need to be more flexible in their approach, in terms of driving an understanding of the power of effective communications from below-the-line advertising, PR and brand management.
"Presently South Africa does not have an agency that can comprehensively offer all these aspects to a company, however, our approach is not to just drive the implementation, but to be able to communicate effectively to a client on their approach and then partner with the correct company that can aid our clients. While we do hold core competencies in media management, crisis communications, internal communication and driving community investment - we need to be aware that some aspects of the brand will need to be managed externally."
It's an international trend, Magnus points out. "Internationally, the power of communications has taken a resurgence, with companies ensuring they work with agencies who not only understand this market need for holistic and flexible service offerings, but have the ability to adapt quickly... It is not just about methodology and information sharing, it is about adopting the strengths of each market discipline to the benefit of the industry as a whole."