The impact of the digital revolution on the PR industry is, by now, well-documented. Less well understood is how traditional PR agencies can realistically alter their models and mindsets in response to the significant changes that are taking place. Where any new innovation is concerned, there is a gap between its adoption by people, and its eventual impact on businesses.
Those gaps can create windows of opportunities for savvy entrepreneurs, in this case Daljit Bhurji and Ivan Ristic. The duo left Hotwire to launch Diffusion in 2008, in a bid to integrate traditional and digital PR in a more credible manner. Like many before them, Bhurji and Ristic believe that the bigger firms are ill-prepared to make the major changes that a digital model requires. In addition, they felt that a dedicated social media-savvy agency would be able to stay on the forefront of new technology, rapidly making the types of changes required to stay ahead of the competition.
Diffusion’s growth has been fairly rapid. The agency is approaching £1 million in fees and has doubled revenues, staff and clients this year. Because of its perceived risk, digital remains a much harder sell than traditional PR but there are two factors that help explain Diffusion’s success. The first is a payment model which specifies agreed metrics and means that the agency only receives the bulk of the fee if it reaches those targets. The second is a commitment to integrating social media with offline PR, a marked difference from the digital-only hotshops that are now ubiquitous.
The agency’s leadership reflects the firm’s focus on the future. Bhurji is just 32, after previously being Hotwire’s first employee in 2000, and heading the digital media practice at that agency. Ristic joined Hotwire from a background in online journalism and marketing. This year, the agency also added Laura Pettitt from Freud to build the firm’s film and entertainment practice. In addition, the agency also pays particular attention to its graduate scheme in order to develop consultants that understand the digital and PR sides of equation.
In 2010, Diffusion saw particular growth from its retail client portfolio, adding Mothercare, La Senza and Early Learning Centre. The agency also won Metro newspaper and, significantly, was selected by the Conservative Party to handle digital PR for its successful general election campaign. Key existing clients include L’Oreal and Primark.
In terms of campaigns, Diffusion’s work for Metro stood out, setting up a partnership between the client and mobile location-based service Foursquare. The relationship enables Metro to deliver its content to specific target audiences in a more effective manner, and also makes use of the newspaper’s long tail of archives.
Diffusion also placed particular emphasis in 2010 on building its international reach through a global affiliate network that focuses on Europe. Working this way, the agency has handled campaigns across 20 countries this year.—AS