Jeff Dillow has been working in the PR/Marketing communications field for 18 years now and has become a specialist in the areas of brand marketing, CR, crisis/issues and cause-related experience. Formerly a Director in the Brand Marketing, Corporate Responsibility and Issues Management disciplines at Cone, Jeff is a Vice President at Hollywood Public Relations.
Jeff served as a panelist for the Publicity Club’s recent Masters’ Institute event covering The Future of PR. Designed for seasoned corporate communications professionals, the discussion focused on how corporate communications and the industry landscape are driving innovation and change.
Following the panel, Jeff took a few moments to provide some insight into the communications industry.
What are the biggest challenges that communications professionals face today?
Identifying and recruiting top talent continues to be a challenge for agencies. Beyond that, though, communications today are moving so rapidly that it can become easy to abandon strategy and react, sometimes without even realizing it. When you consider the sheer vastness of content being pumped out every day, along with the shrinking attention spans of our audiences (Gen Z’s eight-second attention span is down four seconds from Millennials, according to some) it’s more important than ever to resist that temptation. In other words, focus and move quickly, but do it with strategic purpose.
The industry is evolving faster than ever. What do you think have been the most significant changes over the last 2-3 years?
I’ve definitely seen a significant shift away from media relations as the core function of PR agencies. Many clients, both B2C and B2B, are now relying on us for social media strategy and community development/management, content development and even the “light” creative that comes with those responsibilities. Along with that, the lines between earned- and paid-media have become increasingly blurred; many of our campaigns now include both to achieve the desired results. With this overall shift from media, the face of the influencer has also changed. Traditional media or even bloggers may no longer be the most high-impact way to reach target audiences. It could be an Instagram or YouTube personality, or even better: a trusted friend or colleague.
What has been the impact of increased data – big and small – and how are you using it in ways you never had?
Small data is definitely helping drive a better understanding of audience behavior, and easing the process of identifying and relating to new audiences. It’s had an especially significant impact on how we track and measure the effectiveness of social campaigns and content. However, I still feel there’s a hesitancy among clients to really hand over the big data to PR agencies. There’s so much opportunity for learning and increasing the impact of our work, and I expect the data exchange will open up even more in the coming months/years.
What is the next wave of changes that you expect to have the greatest impact?
PR agencies have been struggling with whether to adopt a generalist of specialist model — many have gone from generalist to specialist and back again. Both approaches have their merits, but I believe we’ll see a move toward a hybrid approach in an attempt to meet expanding client service needs. With this, I also think we’ll see the resurgence of inter-agency teams as a critical step in making sure communications efforts across channels remain consistent and aligned with business goals.
What do PR agencies need to do to adapt and thrive in this new marketplace?
We need to step out of the traditional media relations comfort zone to meet the expanding needs of our clients. Offering social, video, digital and other content-focused services is no longer a luxury, but a necessity to retain our status as a valued partner across the client organization.