Digital investment requires bravery
Charting the future of public relations
Holmes Report

Digital investment requires bravery

Arun Sudhaman

Bite Communications has made another interesting digital move in Asia, acquiring internet solutions provider Interlink Systems. The purchase of Interlink gives Bite website build and app development capabilities, and follows the acquisition of email marketing specialist OneXeno last year. We have covered this area in some detail, and it seems increasingly clear that some PR agencies are very interested in broadening their capabilities beyond traditional boundaries. Edelman bought UK software firm Encore earlier this year, while a number of US firms are offering services that span paid and owned media. It still appears, though, that these efforts are limited to a fraction of the PR industry. Plenty of agencies, no doubt, are happier to stick to their knitting - the kind of commoditised media relations activity that grows more threatened by extinction every day. There is another, perhaps more compelling, reason for agency hesitancy when it comes to digital investment. Culture has always been a difficult beast for the PR agency world to tame. Grow too big and it can be obliterated by a disconcerting obsession with margins; stay too small and it can suffocate any trace of expansionary zeal. Import people from another discipline, meanwhile, and life can become complicated. The classic PR person once deified relationship management. These new digital types may be more interested in apps than articles. And that can trouble an agency’s equilibrium. I know of at least one major firm where the digital department sits across the road. And I know of several where the digital talent sometimes seems to be sectioned off from general view. Regardless, the fact that firms like Bite are actively attempting to expand their offering can only enhance the industry’s overall value to clients. A brave new world demands brave new agencies.
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