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Agency Life

The Future of PR

The Future of PR

Danielle Smith

Danielle Smith

May 16, 2019

Red Havas defines the merged media model

"The lines of contemporary communication​ aren’t just crossing, they’re merging."

The public is more critical than ever of the press, advertisers and general branding inundating their screens, influencing their purchases as well as their conversations at work and at home. Therefore, the way companies relate to the public has to adapt to meet the growing demand for authenticity, responsibility, and capability. Simply put, PR now means showing up as a legitimate advocate rather than a flaky friend.

We caught up with James Wright, Global Chairman of the Havas PR Global Collective and CEO of Red Havas to break down the launch of Red Havas, a micro-network that combines the excellence of Havas PR North America, Havas PR UK and Red Agency Asia-Pacific around the powerful model of merged media.

 

Why are Havas PR North America, Red Agency APAC, Havas PR UK and Havas PR Vietnam rebranding as Red Havas?

In an age of transformation and information, PR companies need to provide impeccable service that moves at the pace of today’s lightning-speed multimedia landscape and stays in step with the constant restructuring of modern media. That requires a reinvention of traditional PR. We started this transformation while I was CEO of Red Agency in Australia and APAC, and it was hugely successful as the agency grew from 10 to more than 100 employees in just a few years. So when I was named CEO of Havas PR North America and chairman of the Havas PR Global Collective in mid-2018, we saw the opportunity to formalize our approach across more markets.

The Red Havas agencies usher in a new era for our PR group. They employ a strategic model we call “Merged Media,” which replicates the convergence of media consumption—blending traditional and digital publishing, content, social media and data in a way that we believe defines the future of PR as a category. Building upon the success of this model to date, the rebranding also coincides with major investments into data, content and bespoke insight tools, which will include listening and predictive analytics platforms that will layer in a foretelling media capability not seen before within the industry.

 

What is the Merged Media model, and what generated this idea?

The lines of contemporary communication​ aren’t just crossing, they’re merging. ​Today, media means something radically different from what it meant in the past. It is encompassing—outlets, platforms and various communications channels.

Our Merged Media model represents excellence across earned, social and experiential storytelling with content sitting at the heart. We believe that the future for PR is in embracing Merged Media, and we will do this through strategic investment and integration of content, social, data and brand experience expertise, all of which are crucial to achieving impact in today’s media world.

 

Can you describe what happened with this model in Australia and how it has scaled globally?

While many PR agencies were still getting their feet wet in the social and content space, Red Agency fully immersed itself within it and used this strategic approach to win new business and expand existing clients’ scopes of work. We also used it to create many recognized campaigns that are social by design within our portfolio of work. In fact, the agency’s success was built on this platform, and we made a name for ourselves with several notable integrated campaigns, including Endo The Silence (for Endometriosis) and the Palau Pledge. Over the past six years, Red Agency APAC has become the most awarded PR agency in Asia-Pacific, winning more than 150 global and domestic awards.

As far as how we are scaling this globally, the Merged Media model is now being adopted by a number of Havas Group’s award-winning PR and social agencies, driving it to new heights and across new continents. Havas PR North America, with offices in Phoenix, Pittsburgh, New England and New York City, and Asia-Pacific-based Red Agency, with offices in Australia (Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney), Indonesia (Jakarta), the Philippines (Manila), Singapore and Vietnam (Ho Chi Minh City), will both carry the new Red Havas brand. In addition, Red Havas has opened a new office in London and rebranded its Havas PR office in Manchester and Edinburgh. And we have further expansion plans.

"The speed at which we are operating is akin to that of a newsroom, which is what we have become for many of our clients."

Havas PR currently operates as a collective but Red Havas will be a micro-network. How does the micro-network differ from the collective?

Another key part of my role is how we better articulate the sum of our parts. The Havas PR Global Collective is a group of nearly 40 Havas-owned PR agencies around the world united under a shared set of values and principles with a new focus on a better systems process for sharing knowledge and experience and, of course, coming together to work with clients in multiple markets. The Red Havas micro-network falls within the larger Havas PR Global Collective. The other PR networks and agencies within the Havas PR Global Collective are not part of the rebrand and will continue to operate as they have been.

 

How has PR changed in the past five years?

Like every part of the marketing spectrum, PR is evolving each and every day. As the media landscape and clients’ needs change, the scope of our work continues to broaden. Clients now look to PR firms to handle their owned channels and executive visibility platforms, so we need to ensure that we have the very best capabilities in social media, content development (videos, imagery, blogs, op-eds/bylines, etc.), brand experience and activation, research and insights, and, of course, media relations.

The speed at which we are operating is akin to that of a newsroom, which is what we have become for many of our clients.

 

What are the broader trends shaping PR today?

We are now being tasked with creating earned, owned and paid content, and with finding a unified, quantifiable way to measure PR. Furthermore a few years ago, PR agencies were only dabbling in social, but now we have not only honed our social expertise but have made it a priority area to own—merging it with earned and paid. Today, agencies are earning the trust of their clients to manage and maximize their owned channels. At Red Havas, we have a goal to “continue to own the earned and earn the owned.”

The battle for talent is another emerging trend in the industry, as PR agencies now require different skill sets, different experiences and, therefore, different personalities. To maximize creative output, we need to bring together different thinkers who can work smartly as a team to deliver for our clients. We always say we should be the most fun part of our clients’ day. To be that, PR agencies need to incorporate that fun into their agency fabric, empowering their teams to develop new cultural initiatives and passion projects that further attract the best talent to them.

We’re also tracking PR’s changing role in political and social movements. Our clients have to navigate continual changes in the political and social landscape—in particular issues around diversity and equality—and are looking to their PR agency partner to help them get in on the conversation and contribute to it in a meaningful way.

 

Think back to when you started your career. What is the biggest change between then and now in the world of PR?

The dynamism of the industry is now very palpable. There are so many more channels, so many more ways to communicate. There is also so much fragmentation, and your strategies and tactics need to tackle this transformation. To do that you need people with a much broader set of expertise across the likes of content development, activation, social strategy, insights and optimization. It’s why I am a big fan of our work in the meaningful brands space, because the pressure on being relevant and meaningful has never been so important.

Also, we don’t have fax machines (although, strangely, I still see fax numbers on business cards …), and I remember in my first year or two having to fax press releases to newsrooms for hours every day.

 

Anything else you want to share?

The future for agencies is promised to no one type of agency, so it is for us to earn and own it.

"The lines of contemporary communication​ aren’t just crossing, they’re merging."

The public is more critical than ever of the press, advertisers and general branding inundating their screens, influencing their purchases as well as their conversations at work and at home. Therefore, the way companies relate to the public has to adapt to meet the growing demand for authenticity, responsibility, and capability. Simply put, PR now means showing up as a legitimate advocate rather than a flaky friend.

We caught up with James Wright, Global Chairman of the Havas PR Global Collective and CEO of Red Havas to break down the launch of Red Havas, a micro-network that combines the excellence of Havas PR North America, Havas PR UK and Red Agency Asia-Pacific around the powerful model of merged media.

 

Why are Havas PR North America, Red Agency APAC, Havas PR UK and Havas PR Vietnam rebranding as Red Havas?

In an age of transformation and information, PR companies need to provide impeccable service that moves at the pace of today’s lightning-speed multimedia landscape and stays in step with the constant restructuring of modern media. That requires a reinvention of traditional PR. We started this transformation while I was CEO of Red Agency in Australia and APAC, and it was hugely successful as the agency grew from 10 to more than 100 employees in just a few years. So when I was named CEO of Havas PR North America and chairman of the Havas PR Global Collective in mid-2018, we saw the opportunity to formalize our approach across more markets.

The Red Havas agencies usher in a new era for our PR group. They employ a strategic model we call “Merged Media,” which replicates the convergence of media consumption—blending traditional and digital publishing, content, social media and data in a way that we believe defines the future of PR as a category. Building upon the success of this model to date, the rebranding also coincides with major investments into data, content and bespoke insight tools, which will include listening and predictive analytics platforms that will layer in a foretelling media capability not seen before within the industry.

 

What is the Merged Media model, and what generated this idea?

The lines of contemporary communication​ aren’t just crossing, they’re merging. ​Today, media means something radically different from what it meant in the past. It is encompassing—outlets, platforms and various communications channels.

Our Merged Media model represents excellence across earned, social and experiential storytelling with content sitting at the heart. We believe that the future for PR is in embracing Merged Media, and we will do this through strategic investment and integration of content, social, data and brand experience expertise, all of which are crucial to achieving impact in today’s media world.

 

Can you describe what happened with this model in Australia and how it has scaled globally?

While many PR agencies were still getting their feet wet in the social and content space, Red Agency fully immersed itself within it and used this strategic approach to win new business and expand existing clients’ scopes of work. We also used it to create many recognized campaigns that are social by design within our portfolio of work. In fact, the agency’s success was built on this platform, and we made a name for ourselves with several notable integrated campaigns, including Endo The Silence (for Endometriosis) and the Palau Pledge. Over the past six years, Red Agency APAC has become the most awarded PR agency in Asia-Pacific, winning more than 150 global and domestic awards.

As far as how we are scaling this globally, the Merged Media model is now being adopted by a number of Havas Group’s award-winning PR and social agencies, driving it to new heights and across new continents. Havas PR North America, with offices in Phoenix, Pittsburgh, New England and New York City, and Asia-Pacific-based Red Agency, with offices in Australia (Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney), Indonesia (Jakarta), the Philippines (Manila), Singapore and Vietnam (Ho Chi Minh City), will both carry the new Red Havas brand. In addition, Red Havas has opened a new office in London and rebranded its Havas PR office in Manchester and Edinburgh. And we have further expansion plans.

"The speed at which we are operating is akin to that of a newsroom, which is what we have become for many of our clients."

Havas PR currently operates as a collective but Red Havas will be a micro-network. How does the micro-network differ from the collective?

Another key part of my role is how we better articulate the sum of our parts. The Havas PR Global Collective is a group of nearly 40 Havas-owned PR agencies around the world united under a shared set of values and principles with a new focus on a better systems process for sharing knowledge and experience and, of course, coming together to work with clients in multiple markets. The Red Havas micro-network falls within the larger Havas PR Global Collective. The other PR networks and agencies within the Havas PR Global Collective are not part of the rebrand and will continue to operate as they have been.

 

How has PR changed in the past five years?

Like every part of the marketing spectrum, PR is evolving each and every day. As the media landscape and clients’ needs change, the scope of our work continues to broaden. Clients now look to PR firms to handle their owned channels and executive visibility platforms, so we need to ensure that we have the very best capabilities in social media, content development (videos, imagery, blogs, op-eds/bylines, etc.), brand experience and activation, research and insights, and, of course, media relations.

The speed at which we are operating is akin to that of a newsroom, which is what we have become for many of our clients.

 

What are the broader trends shaping PR today?

We are now being tasked with creating earned, owned and paid content, and with finding a unified, quantifiable way to measure PR. Furthermore a few years ago, PR agencies were only dabbling in social, but now we have not only honed our social expertise but have made it a priority area to own—merging it with earned and paid. Today, agencies are earning the trust of their clients to manage and maximize their owned channels. At Red Havas, we have a goal to “continue to own the earned and earn the owned.”

The battle for talent is another emerging trend in the industry, as PR agencies now require different skill sets, different experiences and, therefore, different personalities. To maximize creative output, we need to bring together different thinkers who can work smartly as a team to deliver for our clients. We always say we should be the most fun part of our clients’ day. To be that, PR agencies need to incorporate that fun into their agency fabric, empowering their teams to develop new cultural initiatives and passion projects that further attract the best talent to them.

We’re also tracking PR’s changing role in political and social movements. Our clients have to navigate continual changes in the political and social landscape—in particular issues around diversity and equality—and are looking to their PR agency partner to help them get in on the conversation and contribute to it in a meaningful way.

 

Think back to when you started your career. What is the biggest change between then and now in the world of PR?

The dynamism of the industry is now very palpable. There are so many more channels, so many more ways to communicate. There is also so much fragmentation, and your strategies and tactics need to tackle this transformation. To do that you need people with a much broader set of expertise across the likes of content development, activation, social strategy, insights and optimization. It’s why I am a big fan of our work in the meaningful brands space, because the pressure on being relevant and meaningful has never been so important.

Also, we don’t have fax machines (although, strangely, I still see fax numbers on business cards …), and I remember in my first year or two having to fax press releases to newsrooms for hours every day.

 

Anything else you want to share?

The future for agencies is promised to no one type of agency, so it is for us to earn and own it.

Danielle Smith is the Communications Manager of Havas Group. She’s believes every meal can be tacos if you have tortillas and the heart to try.

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