PUBLIC RELATIONS and advertising, traditional competitors for their slice of the marketing pie, will have to learn to work together more wholeheartedly in the digital era, according to Michael Farr, who last year was appointed MD of Burson Marsteller Arcay.
“Traditionally, this doesn’t happen, so our approach is quite revolutionary,” says Farr. “This is our competitive advantage and differentiator.”
The main pressure for this new col- laborative model is the advent of digital communications. To take a consistent brand message through all those activities requires agencies to work together.
“Very few companies in this field are good at reputation management, but it will become very important in SA. There is a much bigger consequence to a client if they fail, which is why PR is regarded as more important than a lot of other external activity. So many companies have not bothered to manage their reputation in the belief that people won’t discover the truth.”
Burson Marsteller bought Arcay, one of SA’s most successful PR consultancies, in Oct 2011.
Farr sees his role as helping to grow Burson-Marsteller in SA through a combination of organic growth and new business. “I would like to see an industry where there’s a level of professionalism and expertise designed around meeting client needs rather than an industry that is there to sell services to clients. PR needs to respond to client needs, not to develop a product then try to sell it.
“We will work for clients we respect because we believe our reputation gets tied to theirs. An admired company attracts the best talent, more consumers, better business partners and greater leverage.
When the Exxon Valdez chairman declined to comment on the disastrous Alaskan oil spill of 1989, the company’s market capital dropped by $6bn. Says Farr: “You could lose your reputation and your company overnight if you don’t methodically manage your reputation from one day to the next.”