When H&K’s Josh Reynolds announced at the AR meeting at Gartner US Spring Symposium that he had hired Peggy O’Neill, Oracle’s VP of AR, a lot of us in the industry went “Wow!” Wow because Peggy was leaving one to the top AR jobs to join an agency and wow because H&K had just grabbed a heavy hitter to add to already strong AR story. But does this hire really make a difference in the grand scheme of things? SageCircle believes it does.
Frankly, PR agencies in general do not have a great reputation for best-in-class AR. The analysts dislike the typical agency PR professional doing AR because they are not analyst centric. Unfortunately most PR staff treat the analysts like reporters. For example, analysts loathe that PR pros spam them with requests outside of their coverage area. Ugh. On the vendor side, AR managers look at PR agencies as necessary evils because they are not permitted to hire as many AR professions as they need so they have to throw cash at agencies to get additional labor. Then the AR manager has to deal with PR professionals that really don’t know the company, treat analysts like the press, and try to hoard interaction details to make switching agencies as painful as possible. Triple ugh.
The hiring of O’Neill has the potential – on paper at least – for H&K to challenge this perception to its advantage. Consider the differentiation H&K can now put forth:
- Vendor-based AR management experience at the highest level
- Agency-based AR management experience at the highest level
- Two former analysts, Gartner/Dataquest no less
- In-house expertise that can mentor/coach the H&K AR team on AR best practices
- Tough-as-nails managers to enforce the analyst centric approach
- In-house AR training expertise that can enhance the skills of the H&K AR team and clients alike
- (Potential) Publishing whitepapers and/or blogging on innovative approaches to AR to develop thought leadership and mindshare
To be blunt, it looks grim for other PR agencies in terms of marketing, lead generation, and sales deals where AR will be an important consideration for awarding PR contracts. Of course, what is grim for PR agencies might turn into a good thing for analysts and AR teams as the overall level of agency-based AR could be improved in response to H&K’s surprise move.
- Analysts should be candid with AR managers if the PR agency staff are treating them like reporters and not providing analyst-centric support
- AR managers should carefully evaluate all agency AR proposals to ensure that the agency has the right attitude, manager abilities, and staff expertise to deliver best-in-class AR
- AR managers should carefully evaluate all agency AR proposals to ensure that the agencies are investing in AR training, AR coaching resources, and hiring staff with AR backgrounds so that any agency staff member put on the account will have the AR expertise needed and not just the individual put forward as part of the selling process
- AR managers should reserve the right of refusal regarding agency staff assigned to the account to do AR
Bottom Line: It is a fact of life that AR teams will have to hire PR agencies and analysts will have to put up with them. However, H&K’s hiring of Oracle’s Peggy O’Neill has the potential to raise the bar when it comes to agency-delivered AR. Other agencies will have to improve their game and invest in training and mentoring capabilities in order to remain competitive. Potentially the ultimate beneficiaries of this competitive action will be AR managers and analysts, not just H&K.
Questions: Analysts – What are typical mistakes that PR agencies make when interacting with you? PR agencies – What is your response to this analysis? Do you think that it will be business as usual going forward? AR Managers – How might this affect your selection of an agency the next time you have to renew your contract?
SageCircle can help. For vendor AR managers, we offer a complete scope of AR training, best practices, and advisory that can help your AR team, including any agency staff, drive your program to the next level. Visit www.sagecircle.com and click on our various services to learn more.