During the past year, it is no coincidence that several well known UK PR agencies have reorganised themselves – relegating PR and promoting full-service marketing capabilities – to better reflect the anticipated needs of clients in a digital future.
I call this the rise of the hybrid content agency – a new kind of agency built for the future of communications – and the evolution will be mirrored by client organisations who will reorganise their marketing departments in a similar fashion.
I believe this is happening because Internet marketing and content marketing are converging to achieve the same goals, and the two disciplines will need to be fully integrated in order to succeed, leading to the birth and then rise of the hybrid content department.
Over the past 18 months more clients have been coming to me and asking for non-traditional PR services, such as search and lead generation to full-service marketing solutions. This change has very much been client-led and I am seeing services falling into four broad areas: awareness, demand generation, adoption and advocacy.
For further proof, look no further than the emergence of new roles and the redefinition of existing ones, as clients tackle the challenge of ensuring a seamless experience at every step along the customer journey. For some client businesses this has meant introducing the chief (marketing) integration officer (CIO) role. Arguably, the trend has been quicker to take off in the USA, but it is now gathering momentum in the UK. Some UK businesses, for example, John Lewis, have opted for a different title: that of customer director, or chief customer (experience) officer (CCO), instead. And the move toward CIOs and CCOs is also happening among agencies.
The times they are a-changin, and marketers need to start inclining toward integration, instead of doing their own thing. Otherwise they’ll sink like a stone.
Roles are definitely changing, along with team structures, too, as in-house teams grow more diverse and cross-discipline in both their structure and function. The rationale is delivery i.e. creating the authority (in a senior role) to push through the organisational, structural and strategic changes that might be necessary to make (marketing) integration happen
I believe that within a couple of years, most (marketing) silos will be dismantled and Internet marketing and content marketing will be fused together in a new type of corporate communication infrastructure, designed and equipped to thrive in a new digital landscape, shaped by a rapidly evolving climate of search marketing.
Everything changes, and, to contextualise Darwin’s famous observation, those (marketers and marketing departments) most adaptable to change, will rule this new brave world of marketing.
The last decade has already seen the marketing/media landscape disrupted as never before. The end of the full-service-agency period – the marketing land that time forgot – gave birth to the hyper-specialisation period – the rise and relatively short domination of specialists, who operated in silos, but rarely inter-operated between channels.
Organisations were reluctant to straddle the divides, shunned partnerships and collaboration, and the client, who had encouraged the formation of these silos in the first place, started to bemoan the often poor results of the labour of these separate, isolated tasks. The financial crisis that peaked in 2008, leading to the 2008–2012 global recession, was arguably a trigger that led to the breaking down of these barriers, with marketing budgets decimated and the age of the new media savvy consumer forcing change anyway.
Dedicated advertising, SEO, social and PR consultants and departments began to be phased out as their specialities were not only no longer affordable – as stand alone services – but also no longer seen as siloed disciplines. Instead, agencies, individuals and clients began to look at the value of the integration of foundational components – marketing disciplines not only affected by all aspects of the marketing mix, both online and offline, but also affected by each other.
In the last couple of years, some of the most valuable marketing projects have been those that unite many parts of the client organisation and can flow from market to market without becoming meaningless. And in the next couple of years this cross-fertilisation of disciplines and mind-sets will be driven by and shaped by hybrid ways of working and thinking. SEO and social departments and strategies, for example, will need to be fully integrated with the creation and promotion of content. Equally, content marketing and social media specialists will need specialised SEO knowledge and skills in order to be successful.
SEO will increasingly be seen as encompassing the technical components of online marketing, dealing with keyword research, meta tags, indexing issues and penalty recovery for example, whereas content marketing will be the key driver of search engine rankings, as well as the primary influencer of search visibility.
Businesses that continue to focus on SEO without having a strong content plan in place will fail, and will need to shift their focus to the creation and distribution of high-quality content in order to achieve significant search engine visibility.
If you are interested in finding out how you business can create a seamless experience at every step along the customer journey, or if you are a marketer who needs guidance on how to develop your career, get in touch. Happy to chat. I’ve got over 20 years marketing experience, and I’m still evolving.
About the author: Phil Shirley
“Phil Shirley is a marketing entrepreneur who helps ambitious growing businesses make their marketing pay. He has helped over 500 businesses make more than £500 million. Phil is also an experienced copywriter, ex-journaist and author of several successful books.”