Charting the future of public relations
Making a PR+Digital Agency Merger Work
Holmes Report
Holmes Report
News and insights from the global PR industry

Making a PR+Digital Agency Merger Work

Holmes Report

By Farhad KoodoruthFarhad Koodoruth It’s been 9 months since we completed the merger of Threepipe and Blowfish Digital to build an agency that will address the more integrated issues of an ever changing industry. Even after less than a year, the long term benefits – not just for our clients, but our own staffs’ growth and development - are becoming more apparent, and when it comes to integrating our different skills and expertise it is obvious the opportunities are almost endless. As separate companies, both agencies consisted of two very different types of skillsets and this is something that has proved to be undoubtedly valuable. However, that is not to say it has not come with challenges. As with any new venture, there is a learning curve that comes with such a big change but fortunately we have been able to tackle these hurdles head on and come out the other side a more efficient and capable team. Some of the main challenges we faced have included the following: 1)     Integration Create a team that thinks of “us” rather than two separate teams competing for resources, clients and revenues. It is about driving the thinking around how to best deliver a positive outcome and valuable service for the client using all the weapons in your armoury. 2)     Office space Making sure the companies merge seamlessly is key to ensuring your existing clients stay happy. Getting everyone under one roof proved to be the successful remedy for us with this and instead of have two businesses sharing one office space we have one unified team with a range of services available to clients. 3)     Embracing change and compromising It takes time, effort and compromise to integrate cultures and working processes. You need to be prepared for the fact that you will lose some people that cannot adapt. It’s been interesting watching the people who have moved on retreat into jobs and businesses that do things the way they are used to. 4)     Bring your senior team along In the early days involving the senior team more than normal is beneficial. With all the change going on it can be difficult to lose sight of what is important, so it is vital to have a team that understands the direction the company wants to go. Involving the senior team means they can help manage downwards as new processes and systems are implemented. 5)     Adapting Be adaptable. There are always going to be a couple of things that crop up that have not been legislated for. Being adaptable means situations can be dealt with and solved as quickly as possible. Overall the biggest challenges moving forward for Threepipe has been around the operational practicalities of getting everyone in the same space, getting processes and ways of working established and building a new culture (although culturally the businesses were quite similar so this was reasonably easy). Issues around management and clear leadership had to be addressed so to ensure this was corrected quickly meant the senior management needed to have an open minded and flexible approach to working. Without compromise and being pragmatic we could have ended you can end up bogged down in small detail that is essentially unimportant. The benefits however, even after such a short time, have massively outweighed the challenges. 1)     More resources and skills The nature of what we can now offer clients has changed and grown. The digital team has benefitted from an injection of creativity into their thinking, having a broader outlook on the possibilities available for clients. On the PR side, the injection of data and analysis has given the team a stronger and deeper understanding and toolset for being able to plan and drive better insight for their clients. 2)      Bringing clients on the journey We already have a number of clients where the integration of PR, social, digital and content is changing the way that they approach things and producing better results than the standalone processes they were running before. 3)     New skills With new team members come new skills. Everyone seems to be enjoying the process and challenge – the broadening of their skillsets is producing better, more rounded and strategic marketeers. 4)     Variation With the different natures of our clients, we now have such a great variation of interesting projects and briefs, which is the lifeblood of growing the agency At the end of the day, the world we operate in keeps changing and in order to be able to offer clients the right solutions, we have to adapt, ideally ahead of the curve to be ready for those changes as they really kick in. This commonality of thinking drove our merger through and without a clear strategic direction to begin with - pulling everything together would have been impossible. Farhad Koodoruth is a founder of Blowfish Digital, which merged with UK PR firm Threepipe earlier this year.
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