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Marketing and Public Relations in 2010 Requires a Whole New Business Model

By Robert N. Lee and Margaret Anne J. Taylor |

In today's business climate, old business models are not as effective as they once were, so we must look for new approaches and be innovative in order to break through the marketing clutter.

For the past 18 months, we have been listening to gloomy news reports about widespread layoffs, plummeting stock values, and huge government 'bail outs' for corporations teetering on bankruptcy. How do you approach business in 2010 with all of the drudgery and economic fallout swirling around?

The first step is to stop listening and absorbing all of the bad news and to start looking for opportunities.

The bad economic weather can really dampen your attitude, but you really need to stop focusing on the negative and start taking stock of where you are at and look for ways that your company can do business differently in order to survive and even thrive in an economic downturn.

For example, we have traditionally worked for educational, technology, manufacturing and industrial companies. In the past few years, as budgets tighten some of that work has dried up.

Although that was tough on our business, we looked for new opportunities to emerge and found it by seeking out clients who did not traditionally use a marketing firm. In a downturn, large infrastructure projects tend to be undertaken to help keep people employed and local businesses operating. So, we found a new niche in working with these construction groups.

Other marketing experts have noticed a major shift in how companies will do business in the coming era.

On his blog, Founder and CEO of the NextGen Marketing Group Greg Crosby says that major companies are not only being affected by the downturn in the economy, but by their own resistance to change, "… many of these companies are in this position not because of the 'economy', but because they have operated their businesses under structures, policies, mind-sets, and operating models that have become outdated and unmanageable."

Crosby says that new business leaders and entrepreneurs will emerge with, "… more nimble, virtual infrastructures, remote/telecommuter work forces, technology-enabled processes for sales/support/marketing/ administrative and services delivery will become not just a novelty, but the way future companies will compete and thrive."

So where are these examples of next generation companies that are nimble, virtual, and use technology extensively to run their businesses? Some of these businesses have started to emerge and are doing very well, and since we are focusing on PR and marketing firms, let's give a few examples of innovation in those businesses.

In an article, Patti D. Hill of BlabberMouth PR, says, "Clever PR firms are opting to break the old PR model of deep hierarchies, big egos and humongous retainers." She adds the days of PR sweat shops that put juniors on campaigns and send out endless press releases are over. Hill's firm, now called Penman Public Relations, offers 100% senior level representation at every stage of a project. Experienced PR professionals offer strategic counsel to senior management of clientele and this leads to real results that change the behaviour of customers. These results translate into measurable criteria such as increased sales, share price, membership, sponsorship and/or funding. The success of Hill's firm demonstrates that clients are demanding to be shown results that directly affect the company's ledger. Companies large and small can no longer throw away dollars on extravagant communications campaigns and lavish launch or rebranding parties and events.

Yes, clients are taking more control of their dollars and are demanding more firm results for their marketing and PR investments. Now there are a handful of firms that tell you not to pay if they do not provide results for your firm.

One of those new innovative communications firms is Agency Nil. On its website, the company says, "There is no more advertising; it's a conversation that's relevant and it's changing every hour." The website also says that, "Agencies are not moving fast enough to keep up with the changing landscape. We are." So, the bottom line is that Agency Nil says the company will charge for what the work is worth, and the client determines that element when the project is done.

In 2010 and moving forward, companies that are willing to take chances and create new models will be successful. For example, Victors & Spoils is a new agency built on crowdsourcing principles, that offers clients both curation and strategic direction. On its website, the company says, "Current factors such as radical transparency, the consumer's demand to be more involved and a growing cost consciousness regarding clients' budgets have all made crowdsourcing especially timely for today's marketers."

Lovely Day bills itself as the agency for human brands and the company says it is "Reimagining the way business is done," and believes commerce and justice are not antagonistic notions. The Harvard Business Review says that Corporate Social Responsibility is the "inclusion of public interest into corporate decision-making, and the honouring of a triple bottom line: People, Planet, Profit." Lovely Day defines a human brand as one that acts with the same core principles that we universally expect from one another. In other words, companies with human brands leverage social good to create innovative business ideas.

Anomaly is another agency rejecting the business model of the traditional marketing agency and instead, working together with clients as business development partners. The company develops its own intellectual property that it can licence to clients in return for a share in revenues. Ad agencies traditionally sell its clients ad campaigns. Anomaly looks at clients' challenges through a much broader business model and chooses resources through the lens of the business opportunity.

In a study of small business trends from VerticalResponse, Inc., they were asked what the most important marketing tools for small businesses in 2010 and according to the survey, they were search engine marketing, email marketing, public relations and social media. In our next article, we will explore how to get new clientele for your small business in this economic downturn, and in coming articles, we will explore what the most important marketing tools are for small businesses in 2010.

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