Is there a future for standalone social media and digital marketing agencies? Not if you ask the next generation of marketing and communication pros, at least in Europe. According to a study of 2,000 students there, 80 percent believe these specialized agencies will disappear within 10 years.
Nearly as many – 70 percent – believe marketing will be dominated by content marketing and “PR thinking.”
Are they prophetic, or just naïve? I’m going with the former. The idea of buying “digital” or “social” apart from the services you buy from your marketing or PR agency has always seemed odd to me, and disconnected. Of course it’s a bit self-serving to make this observation. And it’s true that many established marketing and PR agencies were late to the digital/social game, ceding that ground to upstart agencies that reveled in these skills.
But time has passed and two things have changed in the marketing and PR agency worlds. In the marketing agency, it’s far less about pushing the client’s message out, such as through brute force advertising. Today it’s about engagement and influence to bring audiences in. That requires good content that is shaped by “PR thinking” to engage and influence. How do people want to engage with this content? Think digital. How will this content influence? Think social.
In PR firms, it’s not simply about earned media (asking a reporter to cover your story) anymore, but about publishing good content that people enjoy consuming and sharing just as much as a good, old-fashioned editorial produced by a seasoned reporter. Again, for engagement with this content, think digital; for influence, think social.
Are we really to believe the prophecies of a cohort of students who have yet to get their feet wet in the industry? Maybe, maybe not. But it definitely jibes with what we are already seeing within innovative PR and marketing agencies today.