It was really interesting to read about GolinHarris acquiring FUSE to boost their digital street cred. It really is an important change that PR firms go after digital pureplays and was most recently commented on by Steve Barrett in his PRWeek blog article “The Agency Revolution continues”, where he said that digital is both an opportunity and a threat for PR firms. Acquisition of a bespoke digital agency is certainly one way to deal with that double-edged sword, but is it a wise one? Could it be a very costly mistake?
Clearly, there are new skills required to be a modern PR firm – and being digital savvy is really not enough. You need to be able to confidently deliver digital solutions to clients that have increasing demanding and wide-ranging tastes. It makes sense, therefore, to bring in talent from outside to gain that confidence and ability. The test will be whether two very different business cultures can become one and deliver what is the client needs on time and on budget.
My experience tells me that acquisitions have a 8/10 chance of failure. That’s not to say that GolinHarris has made a mistake. Indeed, I believe that their g4 approach is a really interesting way to trying to focus energy on how digital can help clients, but I can’t help thinking that some of that energy will be drawn to integration rather than revelation.
I believe that what is needed in the PR industry is to look at how to do digital more intelligently – not just how to do digital. At Hammerkit, we preach repeatable web solutions not because their different, but because they are obvious. Rather than buy in digital talent, buy in repeatable solutions and train your existing PR talent to be fantastic solution sellers. After all, many clients have very similar needs. That way, you can spend all of your energy on the client and not on melding cultures.