Last evening I attended a lecture at Ball State University by Fleishman-Hillard Chairman (and former CEO) John Graham. He spoke of his firm’s evolution over the last few decades, how it remains a top global communications firm, and the state of the public relations industry overall. I’d like to share some of the views he articulated at last night’s event.
About PR industry: 5 major trends have emerged in the public relations field
1) Globalization – the increasing need for brand management in international markets
2) Convergence of communications disciplines – Paid / Earned / Shared / Owned media
3) An increased importance of data and analytics
4) From social media to social business….an opportunity to gather and make sense of data for clients
5) The rise of reputation and the decline of branding – Graham suggests a company’s reputation is now of most importance, exceeding even the need for branding. He adds that while branding is important, a company’s reputation is now what helps it meet its business objectives.
About Fleishman-Hillard: 30 years ago the firm was a single office in the PR mecca (yes, that’s sarcasm) of St. Louis. Using long-term planning strategies he learned while working at Honda, the groundwork was laid for Fleishman-Hillard’s national and global expansion, becoming one of the world’s leading PR firms today. He says corporate culture is vital to the success of Fleishman-Hillard. So much so, that acquisition prospects are evaluated, in part, by their own corporate culture. The company’s “make ourselves as valuable to our clients as they are to us” philosophy is even included in welcome packets for new employees. Graham says his vision for the company is for it to maintain its small firm attitude, providing the best service despite being a massive firm.
Graham also noted that it’s shortsighted to consider your firm simply as a public relations firm. Graham believes being described as an ‘international communications firm’ is more accurate than PR firm. He says it’s an exciting time for the industry, as firms are being called upon to offer integrated communications solutions for clients.
Graham stressed the importance of writing for PR professionals, those currently working in the field, and those attending schools such as BSU planning to graduate and move into the field.
I could write a book about Graham’s discussion, but I believe I have hit the hot topics in summary. Even if you’re not in PR, don’t you think many of the management styles and techniques mentioned above (culture, planning, versatility) would help solidify your business?