PRSummit: Independent Firms Can Compete For International Business
Charting the future of public relations
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PRSummit: Independent Firms Can Compete For International Business

Independent firms need to make the case that they can deliver a more localized international PR solution than the giant multinational agencies.

Paul Holmes

MIAMI—Independent firms need to make the case that they can deliver a more localized international public relations solution than the giant multinational agencies, panelists at the Independent Public Relations Firms’ Forum insisted, at a session sponsored by thenetworkone, which builds bespoke international agency networks for clients.

Historically, independent firms have sought to either open offices or find partners in international markets as a way to protect themselves against the possibility that clients will outgrow a firm that can deliver only one market.

“If you think you can be an independent firm based in San Francisco, you are going to go out of business,” says David Landis, president of Landis Communications in San Francisco, and of the Public Relations Global Network. “Technology has changed the world. If you are going to be successful, you have to embrace this new paradigm and you have to be international.”

But if technology has made it necessary for independent firms to think globally, it has also made it easier for them to create campaigns in international markets.

“Technology means you don’t have to have people in every market. It used to be that to create an ad, you have to have an office in the country,” says Marcel Loko, chief creative officer at Hirschen, a German-based agency that just launched an international network. “In the digital age, you don’t have to do that. Today, there can be a German agency that can help them on an international level.”

At the same time, many independents believe that they can offer clients a real advantage over global agencies, because they work in each market with firms that have deep local roots.

“Global strategies only work if you take into account local inputs,” adds Kathy Christodoulou, director of Action Global Communications, which has a network of offices in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa.

“Ultimately public relations is about the local story and the local knowledge,” adds Landis, who says PRGN is now marketing itself as “the world’s local network.”

That’s particularly important in creating campaigns that have a global reach, but need to connect with people on a local level.

“We try to make sure that what we do in our firm has global relevance,” says Kerem Yazgan of Prime, a leading Swedish PR firm. “We want to have inputs from other markets and other perspectives. We don’t always have to be the lead agency. We have to make sure that the ideas we come up with will be relevant in other markets.”

He cited the firm’s Vac From the Sea campaign for Electrolux, which found NGOs in multiple markets from around the world to partner on a sustainability campaign that built vacuum cleaners out of recycled plastics.

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