Does the Agency Model and Leadership Impact the Future of Creativity in Communications?


The Holmes Report recently released their fourth annual Creativity in PR Global Study and the results present a mixed bag on the status of right brain thinking in the PR profession. While there has evidently been an uptick in key areas – for instance viewing creativity as a key element in agency culture and more resources being devoted to creativity – there is still work to be done.

The study, conducted in association with H+K Strategies, provides both a snapshot and a somewhat longer view of the profession relative to its creative path.  But as with any study, the real insights are when the results of similar questions are considered together.

This year’s study included the question “Do you think the PR industry is set fair to deliver and lead creativity in the next five years, in terms of …?”. Respondents had four categories to respond to: Talent (hiring, training, diversity of workforce), Innovation, Agency Business Model, and Leadership.

Here’s how the responses netted out:

Unfortunately, this question wasn’t included in last year’s study, so there’s no way to know if there’s been a change. But there are both insights and dichotomies when the responses to this question are compared to the response to others.

Take talent for instance. Responses to a separate question about how agencies reward creativity indicated less than half (45.7%) do so as part of an annual performance review and a third don’t reward it at all. Taking that into account, how then could the industry as a whole be well positioned to hire, train and diversify for creativity into the foreseeable future? How many people – regardless of age group – will want to continue to work in an industry that says it values creativity, but your chances of being rewarded for it are less than 50 percent?

Let’s move to innovation. The greatest percentage of respondents to this question believes that the industry is poised to lead in this area. That’s all good, but when compared to the 50% of respondents who rated the current quality of creativity as ordinary in a separate question, there’s clearly a lot of work that needs to be done to get the industry to a leadership position in innovation over the next five years.

The Agency Model received the lowest percentage of yes votes relative to the long-term view and the highest number of no’s. Should we be surprised? The model has been in question for some time now, yet no one seems to know what to do about it. Unfortunately, when these numbers are combined with the fact that Leadership got the second lowest number of yes votes and the second highest number of no’s to this same question, it’s not difficult to see that the industry may be stymied in its efforts to be more creative.

Clients and agency personnel alike are providing some possible solutions. When asked if they could only do three things to improve their own or their company’s creative capabilities here are the top five responses:

      Improve use of insight

      Ability to take more risks

      Educate clients

      More budget

      Clearer client briefs

Three of the above require more direct money and two require more time, which equates to more money. With money involved, change in the agency model and leadership mindset will be necessary to address all or most of these.

In other parts of the report, client input suggests they’re willing to spend the money on innovative ideas, but not if there’s no data to back up the approach. Advertising agencies have never had a problem with this. They create ideas, test them, iterate on the results then present concepts based on data. Brainstorming might have gotten them to the initial idea, but the results of the brainstorm typically don’t go immediately to the client without some kind of data to back it up. That’s a model that PR firms aren’t used to operating within but may need to get comfortable with.

It’s encouraging to see that the industry as a whole is continuing to move toward a greater focus on being more creative. This has been a conundrum that has affected PR for decades. But verbalizing what you want to be and proving it are two different things. Rather than pointing to ad agencies and wondering why they get to wear the creative mantle, PR needs to take a clue from them and mimic what’s allowed them to do so. It’s going to have to start with agency and in-house leadership – their future and the industry’s may depend on it.

The Final Decade of the Single-Practice Agency


Everyone’s talking about it. The end of the marketing silo. The rise of the full-stack marketer. Buyers expect a seamless experience from a brand, which means online, offline, mobile and social all converge under a single marketing strategy. Paid, owned and earned tactics all complement and reinforce each other.

But what does this all mean for the client-agency relationship? How do we evolve in the era of integrated marketing?

Set business goals, not channel-specific goals

As a starting point, we all need to be better at focusing on the end goal. What is the business impact we are aiming to achieve? Too often this intention gets derailed at the RFP process. We still see a surprising number of RFPs in which the stated goals are tactical at best. So the objective is to increase awareness. Among which audience? Why? What is the desired business outcome? Driving demand by getting a seat at the table more often? Or addressing a perception issue among shareholders to improve valuation? While it is the agency’s responsibility to ask these questions, it is the client’s to be able to answer them. Too often the answers show a lack of internal understanding about the objective. The reason? Usually it’s because the in-house communications team is not connected enough to the sales and marketing groups.

It is also becoming increasingly important for agencies to understand their clients’ customer journey. At every stage of the journey, what are the likely preconceptions, concerns and objections? Campaigns need to be developed to address each stage. For example, top of funnel awareness can be improved with a campaign designed to reach customers as they experience the problems your client solves. Using keyword analysis you can anticipate the issues they are most concerned about and develop relevant content. A multi-channel approach allows you to syndicate that content through traditional media placements, your own social channels and paid social and mobile media. You might also use this content for webinars or physical events and, of course bring it all together with a targeted email campaign. This single example requires SEO, content, media relations, direct marketing, events and advertising teams to collaborate at every step.

Customer-centric replaces channel-centric marketing

Of course, the changing nature of marketing means in-house teams are evolving too. Where marketing teams may have been segmented by product or channel in the past, they must now be organized by customer. The idea that each marketing group could have its own agency, is quickly becoming redundant. How will you ensure a handshake between the thought leadership campaign targeting your C-level customers, and the paid amplification of that content? You do it by bringing it all under an agency that has both multiple skills and focused domain expertise relevant to your customer base.

The challenge for agencies is how to balance the need for specialist skills with a generalist approach. Full-stack marketers are rare, so clients need to complement their own in-house capabilities with skilled expertise within their agency. Yet, for efficiency’s sake, they also want strategists and account managers who can lace complex multi-channel campaigns together into a cohesive whole.

Specialists are from Mars, generalists are from Venus

Meanwhile, in agency land, specialists need leadership from someone who understands their field. They want career paths that allow them to go deeper rather than broader. Different specialists may flourish in different working environments and charge different day rates. Try managing a graphic designer, analyst and crisis comms specialist in the same way and the results will be interesting to say the least.

Advertising agencies have traditionally addressed this by separating creative, planning and account management teams. PR agencies have favored a more vertical approach with generalists handling strategy, content, media relations and account management all at once. In the brave new world of integrated marketing, a dominant model has not yet been found.

At LEWIS, we’re favoring a networked model. We have teams specializing in PR, digital, marketing and advertising. Then we are developing the account manager level across all units to oversee fully integrated campaigns. Our Marketing Services group was recently expanded to give clients and teams access to broad marketing strategy for any campaign. Project teams are organized around clients and work as one, to deliver results across every channel.

We predict that we will see the end of the single-practice agency by the end of the decade. Holding companies, which have promulgated the specialist agency model for years because it allows them to maximize revenues across multiple agency brands, will find it the hardest to change. The new normal will be agencies that are organized by client, be it by sector (technology, consumer) or by stage (emerging companies, global companies). These agencies will have a flexible, single P&L structure that allows seamless collaboration between teams without revenue or turf wars getting in the way.

It will take an investment in training and significant organizational shift. But it is the right thing to do for clients, their customers and the future of communications.

Virtual Reality is Here To Stay, Now What to Do With It


A recent communication trend study released by Hotwire PR, indicates virtual reality (VR) could begin playing a more significant role in the coming year as companies use it to bridge the pervasiveness of increasing amounts of data with the desire by customers to experience a brand before buying. While the study identified several other trends – for instance, how advertising will be forced to change with the popularity of ad blocking and how Millennials can no longer be treated as a single demographic – its point of view on VR was the most interesting.

For the uninitiated, VR didn’t recently come to fruition with Facebook’s purchase of Oculus Rift or the popularity of role playing games. Jaron Lanier, considered one of the earlier pioneers of VR, gained notoriety in the 80s and 90s by introducing the first VR gloves and goggles. But the company he had co-founded to commercialize VR products eventually went bankrupt. The patents for the products Lanier helped develop were eventually bought by Sun Microsystems, and Sun was eventually bought by Oracle. Lanier now works for Microsoft. Who knows what Oracle has done with his patents today?

Since then, VR has continued to have fits and starts. More recently, 3D TV was supposed to give us a more immersive experience. How many people watch 3D TV. But the Hotwire study points out that the hardware issues that have stood in the way of greater mass adoption of VR seem to be rapidly working themselves out. Entertainment and gaming are what will evidently drive the pervasiveness of the hardware.

But as the study points out, there will be more to VR than play. The travel industry is already experimenting with ways to use it to provide travelers with a virtual look at a destination, a hotel or even a mode of transport. Earlier this year, Marriott experimented with a 4D experience that allowed travelers to be able to see, hear and even feel what it would be like to be in various destinations.

The non-profit industry is another potential VR adopter. With prospective donors suffering from “donation request fatigue,” non-profits are being forced to find more ways to move people to give.  According to the Hotwire report, Amnesty International used VR to give people a more realistic experience of the crisis situation in Syria. The result was not only an increase in donations, but also an uptick in online chatter about the experience and the crisis.

What’s evidently driving all of this is not an increased fascination with VR, but the fact that companies are finally seeing the potential for VR to bridge the daily onslaught of data with the desire to experience a brand before committing to it. In other words, developing emotional connections in the absence of physical presence.

There’s a slippery slope here, though, because just as social media has been targeted as being as much a bane as a boon for society, VR is bound to be at the receiving end of an even greater potential backlash. After all, it is removing the end user even further from the physical present than a text, post or shared photo ever will. Communicators and content creators who contemplate using VR will need to keep this in mind and not treat it as one more communication tool to tick off a list of others that have come before.

For the public relations industry, this also means getting even more comfortable with the idea that emotional connections are driven by providing consumers with immersive experiences. The more immersive the better. Any type of service or product demo is essentially an immersive experience and an opportunity to bond with a prospective customer.

What VR can deliver are experiences that are even more immersive and reveal aspects of a company, service or product in ways that have never before been available. In an age when consumers are also demanding even greater transparency to go with their immersion, this can only be a good thing for everyone involved.

The Most Creative Agencies Inspire Purpose and Empower Consumers


A couple of weeks ago, the Holmes Report issued their fourth annual Global Creative Index and the results found Weber Shandwick on top of the overall agency ranking after placing third last year.

The Holmes Report analyzes the entries and winners of more than 25 different award programs to determine agency placement in their index. Weber had a plethora of awards, including three top-10 campaigns that included ‘World Hunger Relief’, ‘Danone Nutricia Crisis’ and ‘Who Framed Master Kong.’

Here’s a list of the other agencies in the top ten this year compared to last year. The global agencies dominate if for no other reason than the sheer volume of awards they can enter.

The Holmes Report also indexed agencies according to head count or what they referred to as a “pound for pound” calculation of the most creative agencies in the world. The result is that none of the big names on the list above ended up on the list below, and the list is fairly diverse when it comes to geography. That may or may not be proof that size and location influence an agency’s level of creativity. However, it does suggest that the resources of a large agency don’t necessarily guarantee a creative bent.

Campaigns themselves were also indexed and Always #LikeAGirl developed by MSL Group and Leo Burnett took top honors by a significant margin. It’s core message of girl empowerment “...aimed to turn an insult into a movement for confidence among teenage girls.” The Holmes Report developed this particular ranking by using a formula that emphasized the Best in Show winners of the awards programs it incorporated into its overall index.

The results of the indexed campaigns reveal a few trends in the combination of content and execution of the winning campaigns:

  •      Inspiring social purpose aligned with disruptive creative
  •      Consumer empowerment
  •      Integration of earned, owned and paid media

It will be interesting to see who ends up in the index next year and just how many campaigns will continue to reflect these trends. In the meantime, anyone who believes that creativity and PR are not aligned, need only look at the index to be proven otherwise.

Exploring Big Data: Insights for Agencies


For several years now, Big Data has been top of mind for a variety of industries, and that includes PR.  An extraordinary amount of content has been generated about how it can benefit everything from customer insight to driving efficiencies in just about every industry imaginable. Yet, attitudes about Big Data within PR are mixed.  There’s skepticism, based on the assumption that too much of the data that’s collected may be inapplicable to PR, and avoidance since the current level of data available to PR may seem to be just the right amount.

Neither attitude, however, is going to help PR professionals now or in the future because the numbers related to Big Data spending are too large to ignore. Consider that according to research conducted in 2013 by CapGemini, global spending on Big Data exceeded $31 billion and is expected to surpass $114 billion by 2018.  Sixty percent of the executives who participated in that survey said they believe that Big Data will disrupt their industry in the next three years. Considering the timing of the survey, that disruption is starting to happen now.  If PR wants to be part of helping companies work through that disruption, Big Data adoption or, at the very least, understanding how to use it is key.

Here’s what that same CapGemini survey identified as overall challenges to Big Data adoption and usefulness:

  • Scattered data due to a lack of fully integrating all of the data sources. This means that sales information isn’t being integrated with marketing budgets or specific programs like influencer outreach.
  • No clear business or use case to justify funding or implementation. There’s data collection, but lack of direction in terms of what the data will be used for.
  • Lack of collaboration between different elements of an organization. IT, marketing and finance may not actually meet to set up the use case or determine how best to integrate once the data begins to be collected.

What’s also missing from the above is what any good researcher will tell you: data is fairly useless without analytics. Without analytics, data is just bits and bites taking up storage space on a server somewhere in the middle of who knows where. Evidently, there’s also a lack of analytics when it comes to all of this data.

Here’s where PR can play a role because making sense of data has been a necessity in the profession for decades with an ever-growing need to show results and prove that the needle has been moved. Since that needle has gotten bigger and now sits over multiple channels, Big Data now provides PR with the information the profession has been clamoring for and that is no longer just in the domain of sales and marketing.

An article published last year by Meltwater as part of multi-part look at trends in PR pointed out a few ways those who have already adopted Big Data are using the plethora of bits and bites. Notice that none of the below fall outside the realm of what most PR professionals do now. The only difference is that Big Data provides a much richer pool of information to work with:

  • Hypertargeting and location-specific real-time marketing: reaching the right customers at the right moment.
  • Data Visualization in the form of infographics and more dynamic and visual charts and graphs.
  • Positioning by using data to test specific messages across different channels to see what resonates and what doesn’t.
  • Competitive Analysis: being able to more specifically track and analyze a competitor’s activities.

While Big Data may be intimidating, PR professionals who don’t make an effort to at least understand it, do so at their own peril. It’s here to stay and is only going to get bigger.

A Tale of Two Revenues


A funny thing happened in public relations in 2012. Global revenue growth bumped up 14.7% after several years of alternating single digit growth and double-digit losses during the Great Recession (see chart). That was the single biggest bump since 2006 when revenue growth was at 14.1%. Unfortunately, the fun stops there as revenue growth since has never been higher than 4.6% and that was in 2013. Projections from IBISWorld out to 2020 don’t show much improvement.

But the PR profession can take some solace in the fact that, as you can see, the advertising industry is in the same boat…or at least the same stream of projected flat revenue growth now and into the foreseeable future. During that banner year of 2012 – despite mostly staying ahead of the game during the previous recessionary years – advertising revenue only grew 5.9%. Since then PR and Advertising global revenue growth have mostly been in lockstep with one another with single digit growth in the high 3% to low 6% range. But the future looks even less bright for advertising with a continued downward trend that sees revenue growth potentially going as low as 2.8% by 2020.

While the amount of money that is spent on advertising will probably always exceed that spent on PR, the fact that both are now seeing relatively small but similar percentage revenue increases year-on-year indicates a degree of parity most never thought possible. It’s difficult to be certain as to how these projections will hold up. It’s doubtful anyone saw the 14.7% increase for PR happening before 2012. With the global media landscape changing and content continuing to be an important factor, the only thing certain about the future of PR and advertising revenue growth is uncertainty.

Image Source: Patrik Theander

The Top 10 Global PR Agencies: Where Are They Now and Where Could They Be Headed


The economic fortunes of public relations agencies are typically subjected to the economic swings of national and global economies. So one would think that the last several years that have marked an uptick from the downturn of the Great Recession would have most, if not all, of the large global agencies doing quite well economically. But a look at the revenue numbers of the top 10 global PR firms indicates otherwise.

In the chart below, you’ll see the billings for these firms over the four-year period from mid-2010 to mid-2014. Brunswick and Edelman are independent, but the rest are owned by the big global media holding companies. Weber Shandwick and Golin are owned by Interpublic; Ketchum and Fleishman Hillard belong to Omnicom; Burson, Hill & Knowlton and Ogilvy are with WPP; and MSL Group is owned by Publicis. The combined billings of these top 10 global agencies is $4.78 billion — a pretty significant number considering it’s generated by just ten firms. But dig deeper and the numbers become more telling.

Here are some specific data points worth noting:

  • Edelman’s model of private ownership seems to work just fine. They’ve continued to point out that as a result of not being tied to a holding company, they can control their own destiny. They have. Richard Edelman has said he wants to be a billion dollar business and with over $812 million in billings by the middle of last year, they are on track to hit that number by the end of 2016.
  • Weber Shandwick seems to have figured out how to match Edelman at least fairly closely in billings. So they’ve either been allowed more free reign by Interpublic or they’ve found a leadership equation that’s paying off. With only a $12 million-plus difference between their 2014 billings and Edelman’s, they could be in a position to finish at the top by the end of 2015.
  • Then there’s the middle group of Fleishman, Ketchum, Burson, H+K, and MS&L – all of which are owned by various holding companies. Burson’s growth has been flat, Ketchum and Fleishman’s have risen fairly steadily, and MSL and H+K have actually declined. (No idea how you do that in a growing economy.) Ketchum has shown the largest increase in revenue within this group, but even that appears to have tapered off last year.
  • The bottom three – Ogilvy, Golin and Brunswick have seen mostly stagnant growth during the same period.

What’s interesting about this information is what it reveals about the media holding companies relative to the PR agencies they own. While they all own multiple agencies engaged in everything from PR to advertising to digital, their ability to run growing global PR firms could be seen as questionable – particularly WPP. Consider that the three agencies on the list owned by them have been experiencing extended periods of mostly stagnant growth, while other agencies owned by the other holding companies (MSL Group excluded) have been able to grow or hold their own with the economic upturn. Edelman is the outlier, not only in its growth but in its ability to grow substantially more than any single or even group of agencies other than Weber Shandwick.

But WPP is the largest media holding company in the world and the others aren’t far behind. So what’s going on here?

To get a better sense of how these companies perform economically, let’s take a look at how their stock price did during a similar period. In this case August 23, 2010 to June 30, 2014

  • Interpublic — $8.54 per share to $19.39 per share
  • Omnicom — $36.68 per share to $71.62 per share
  • Publicis PA – $33.46 per share to $61.47 per share
  • WPP — $49.95 per share to 108.49 per share

Most of these organizations were doubling their share valuation at a time when their PR agencies were experiencing modest to stagnant growth or declining. If their stock growth was tied to PR earnings alone, most of these would have been listed as DO NOT BUY or SELL.

The combination of revenue and share price points to a number of things:

  • The large global agencies may not see traditional PR alone as a priority or at least as a sole source of income – this includes Edelman, which is the world’s largest PR firm. They and the other global firms (and the holding companies that own them) are continuing to diversify by adding specialized offerings like digital services, small to large ad agencies and design firms, and research entities. The agency or holding company that figures out how best to integrate these various services into a workable model will likely come out ahead of the others. That’s difficult to do when you own multiple firms that replicate each other.
  • Companies that are allowed to or have the wherewithal to pursue their own future are rare, but being able to have that flexibility is no guarantee of success. Look at Brunswick – an independently owned agency that has that kind of freedom, but is in a stagnant growth path.
  • Lack of growth in a growth market typically means a company isn’t providing what the market wants – regardless of what business you’re in. So one could conclude that the large firms that aren’t growing are either slowly becoming irrelevant or are in significant need of new leadership…or both.

What will be interesting is to look at the numbers four to five years from now and see if these trends have continued. More than likely one or more of these agencies will be subsumed into another to cut costs, reduce redundancy and make the parent entity more relevant. There are a number of other factors at work that could impact this scenario, but given that media holding companies are publicly traded, shareholder expectations may eventually drive the future of the agencies that can’t make their way up the revenue chart.

Join Us in Creating the Future of PR!


The fundamental capabilities of PR professionals are more relevant than ever in our intensely networked world. Arguably, PR should be at the center of the marketing universe, since it is better able than any other discipline to deal with a world driven by relationships, fueled by connectivity, social, mobile, and power shifting to the individual.

The big question is: will the PR industry seize the immense opportunity before it?

For the last decade I and my companies have been extensively involved in the PR industry, helping PR agencies anticipate and respond to changes in the world of media, and supporting client projects with compelling insights on the future.

During this time of extraordinary change in media and marketing I have observed dramatic shifts in the PR industry, yet they have not always matched the pace of external change.

PR professionals as masters of the universe?

Back in 2006 I wrote an article Six Facets of the Future of PR, which concluded:

We are entering a world in which the flow of information and perceptions will drive much of the value creation in a highly networked global economy. The PR industry should be looking forward to a time of massive prosperity, in which it extends itself to play in entirely new fields of media and communication. Yet many of the existing participants will need to adopt a new stance and actively develop new skills to do this effectively. Those that re-conceive their role and potential impact, could well be masters of the universe.

This is just as true today as it was then.

We believe that current social, technological, and business trends mean that the core capabilities of the PR industry are more relevant than ever, and can be applied to generate exceptional value. However the industry needs to evolve and adapt dramatically to seize that opportunity.

Why we are launching Creating the Future of PR

We are launching Creating the Future of PR to support the PR industry in this transition to a even more prosperous future.

We will bring perspectives from industry leaders on what professionals, firms, and the industry can do to build success.

We will also bring specific insights and research to bear on current issues such as software tools, influencer outreach, branded content, social engagement, and other emerging topics.

Global perspectives

In particular we are keen to take a global perspective, and examine differences in the state of PR and how it is evolving in different regions around the world. PR is a substantially different industry in growing markets such as South America and the Middle East that it is in established markets, and the diversity and dynamism of Asia is bringing entirely new opportunities.

Please let us know if you would like to contribute regional perspectives on the future of PR.

Please join us in helping create an exceptional future for PR!

We have just launched the publication, and will build it over time.

We will share insights and resources that will be useful to the PR industry, and would love to get insights from those who are in the frontlines creating the future of PR. Please get in touch If you would like to contribute your perspectives or have suggestions on what we should be covering.

To really make this valuable to the industry we need to support a conversation. We have set up a Creating the Future of PR Facebook Group; please join your peers there in discussing how we can make the most of the opportunities for the industry. We may establish other community platforms, let us know if there are ones that you would prefer.

We will convene events to bring together those who are creating the future of PR, starting with a Creating the Future of PR Forum in Sydney in October (details coming soon), and events in other major cities globally forthcoming. Please get in touch if you’re interested in participating or collaborating in any future of PR events.

So welcome to Creating the Future of PR, we will do what we can to support your leadership in building a spectacular future for the industry!

The C-Suite Finally Embraces Social Media: Here’s What That Looks Like


It doesn’t seem that long ago that if surveyed, most CEOs would admit to either a lack of use for social media for themselves or a complete abhorrence for it. Times have changed. A recently released study by Weber Shandwick found that 80% of the chief executive officers of the world’s largest 50 companies are now engaged online and on social media. The results published in “Socializing Your CEO: From Marginal to Mainstream,” show that CEO sociability has more than doubled since 2010.

Unsurprisingly, the study found that LinkedIn was the most popular social media network for CEOs, followed by Twitter.

Image Source: Weber Shandwick

According to the Weber Shandwick CEO study, Facebook usage in 2014 was non-existent for a number of reasons, but primarily because of the number of fake CEO accounts on the site. Otherwise, usage on other social networks increased substantially.

As the study learned, CEOs are becoming more comfortable with the idea of some level of social engagement and are more rapidly beginning to understand its value and embrace it. Newer and more established CEOs alike are now realizing that being more socially engaged can help them communicate more quickly and easily when demands on their time prevent them from doing so with more traditional communication channels.

However, as the survey report indicates, there is no one-size fits all approach for CEOs since the types of networks used and what gets posted on them can vary depending on personality and situation.

But C-suite adoption of social media isn’t just confined to CEOs or even CMOs. A different study CIO Social Insights Report (by Robert Half International and Leadtail) indicates the need to broaden that perspective with the inclusion of CIOs. While that study doesn’t delve into specific numbers related how social media use among CIOs has changed, it does provide some insight into how CIOs are using it today.

While the key findings listed below aren’t too surprising, they do indicate that CIOs may be using social media more for conveying and accessing information than for being outright social within their company and with their industry peers:

  • CIOs engage on social media to showcase expertise and leadership, and drive conversations about technology strategy and innovation.
  • Cloud computing and infrastructure, big data, analytics and the Internet of Things are top-of-mind topics for these technology executives.
  • CIOs and IT leaders actively engage with the social media content of other technology leaders, industry analysts and journalists, as well as with marketing and social media influencers.

Like their CEOs, CIOs seem to prefer Twitter to most other social networks. Where this gets interesting, though, is what the study reveals about the publishers CIOs prefer to retweet information from. While the top 20 includes what you might expect — (number 1) and CIO Magazine (number 20), in between are sandwiched sites like Mashable, Venture Beat, and The Verge. A bit of an eclectic mix that indicates that this audience isn’t as confined to pure technology plays as one might think.

Image Source: Robert Half

The CIO Insights Report reveals a mix of technology, business and financial outlets as source material for Twitter activity by CIOs.

The list of thought leaders CIOs mentioned for the report or follow is equally varied and includes Vala Afshar (CMO of Extreme Network), Peter Thiel (PayPal founder) and Steve Wozniak. Yes, Steve Wozniak is still relevant with CIOs.

What both of these reports indicate is that the adoption by the C-Suite of social media that employees at every level have been clamoring for is finally starting to happen. Will a couple of high profile slip-ups on social media reverse that trend? More than likely not. As new apps for sharing more visual information over social networks become easier to use and more readily available, there will likely come a day when the C-suite will wonder why they didn’t embrace social media earlier.

Five Big Demographic Shifts and What They Mean for PR


Much has been made of how demographic changes – primarily generational – are affecting media consumption. The focus continues to be primarily on Millennials across the world and their propensity to consume media on multiple screens while constantly being on the move.

What’s been missing, however, is a look at even deeper changes that are profoundly altering the demographics of entire countries and regions of the world, and what those changes could mean to the future of PR.
While there are a multitude of demographic changes to consider – such as shifts in wealth distribution, other age related issues, and immigration – the changes associated with age cut across multiple topics. George Magnus, famous economist and author, made some predictions related to age during a presentation he gave to the Conference Board in 2013. Let’s look at the five massive ones and how they impact PR.

1. Older not younger.
Over the next 35 years, there are expected to be more older citizens than children. That means about 418 million people in the world over the age of 60 by 2050. While most Baby Boomers will have since passed by then, that means a lot of older Millennials and Generation Z-ers inhabiting the earth. While their affinity to devices may vary by global region, they will bring their digital expectations with them, providing both opportunities and challenges. Public relations professionals will be tasked with staying current on information that will shift with the needs that come with growing older. That includes healthcare, shopping and travel options. Combine this with a generational expectation of transparency and the role of public relations in both ensuring transparency and combating charges of non-transparency will become even more prevalent.

2. Non-communicable diseases – new epidemics.
According to the Business Insider article, the World Health Organization has called the invisible epidemic of non-communicable diseases responsible for about 60% of deaths globally. The leading culprit is depression, which is expected to become the biggest single cause of disability by 2030. That will likely mean more pharmaceutical solutions entering the market across the world, but also more holistic options with populations in various global regions being more open to them than others. This may also force a more candid and open discussion of the issue and remove some of the stigma related to discussing it. Public relations has an opportunity to help drive this shift while also playing a part in the way different medications will be introduced into the market. The challenge will be to keep the fight against communicable diseases from taking a back seat in terms of awareness.

3. Faster to 60.
More people are reaching 60 than ever before. In most developed countries, it took about 40 – 80 years for those over 60 to double in size of population. In emerging markets, however, the process is playing out in about 20 years with China being the fastest to hit this mark. The result is that many people are growing old before they or the countries where they live can afford it. For PR professionals, this will mean the need for communication strategies tied to what will inevitably be strained resources, new government initiatives related to both financial and physical well-being, and new products touting the ability to help the aging population cope.

4. Who’s going to pay for it?
The issue here is around what is referred to as the old age dependency ratio — the number of workers available to support a single retired citizen. A low dependency ratio is where there are fewer workers available per older citizen. For instance, the 1.5 workers per retiree expected by 2050 in countries like Germany, Japan, Italy, and Spain where weak fertility, rising longevity and more stringent immigration policies are the cause. Meanwhile, economies like Sweden and France are predicted to have higher ratios that will fall from 4-5 workers today to about 2-2.5 by the mid-century. This is mostly due to higher fertility rates and a more open immigration policy. PR may be asked to create campaigns that will 1) keep workers working longer, 2) extol the virtues of helping support the elderly, and 3) loosen immigration policies to ensure a more manageable dependency ratio that isn’t available without it.

5. Exploiting the economic dividend.
There is an ideal economic phase where child dependency is falling and the working age population is expanding, and old age dependency is just on the brink of rising. Growth in income, savings, investment, and technical progress highlight this phase. Once the old age dependency ratio starts to rise, however, then all bets are off as it tends to drag down growth. Strong financial institutions, positive investment climate, stable infrastructure, and ongoing innovation allow countries to exploit this demographic dividend to their benefit. While PR can’t directly affect any of these elements, it can communicate what companies and government institutions are doing to improve and protect them. Consequently, PR will be called on in the future to effectively communicate the economic dividend to help ensure its longevity and benefits.