20 November 2006

Don’t worry, everything happens for a reason…

…like, you weren’t right for PR in any case.

Andrew B. Smith over at Object Towers alights like a butterfly to a rose on a subject we too have touched on before; whether we will see PR grunt work outsourced to India or, indeed, any other country where labour costs are a fraction of the UK.

I think we will…but which bits? The immediate reaction is, “oh, no, no, no…you need to be able to develop relationships to do my job…with the client, with the media…you can’t outsource that.” But there are parts of the job that don’t require the relationship, just a bit of knowledge and ability.

Here’s an example from another profession (nicked, if I remember it rightly, from Thomas L. Friedman’s “The World is Flat”). It is now common practice for doctors in the US to email to doctors in India scans of their patients’ x-rays for overnight analysis and diagnosis. Now there’s a profession if ever there was one that demands a relationship between client and professional, but obviously some aspects of it don’t. The client is none the wiser, and the service is better (i.e. faster results).

There are aspects of the PR job that could be outsourced. Reporting, for one (do I hear anyone complaining about that?). I could also see some aspects of financial PR being outsourced…the process-driven, regulatory announcement-type activity. Indeed, couldn’t the whole top-and-tailing of US press releases for international distribution be very easily undertaken at a central location, rather than in each country?

It’s definitely on its way. And you know what? I’m kinda looking forward to it.

18 comments:

james warren said...

I remember standing up in front of a packed (well, okay... partially filled) QE2 Centre at the PRCA Conference five years ago and suggesting that the future of PR was t'Interweb and call centres. The call centre comment in particular was met with derision. I was wrong, because PR just isn't 'done' over the phone anymore, but the central tenet of my argument still stands: that the vast majority of reactive press office functions [significant caveat: on large accounts] can be done by anyone with access to 'exclusive' media information and the ability to redirect information seekers up or down a PR value chain as appropriate. The real value of a PR agency in this day and age is not the work of a floor full of 'grunts' generating thousands of words of copy and dealing with inbound requests - it's in senior strategic counsel and a few critical influencer relationships. Of course, I'm sure you could argue it was always thus - but I guess the decline of the grunt does interesting things to the agency finance model. I could go on, but I have a meeting to go to. Make hay while the sun shines, eh?

Simon said...

Sorry... have I missed something? Which part of the above post was acerbic, sarcastic or down-right rumour mongering???

....the world's leading.... said...

Blimey James, have you always been so very cutting edge...constantly been a man ahead of your time?

"I recall being derided in Class 3A of Little Swathope Junior and Infants for suggesting that the days of sherbert dips, Tutti-Frutti and Black Jacks were numbered...and that before long it'd be little jelly sweets in the shape of dinosaurs. They laughed me out of the playground...but look at Haribo today...who's laughing now, eh?"

That was you, wasn't it?

....the world's leading.... said...

Damn, you're right Simon. Not sure what happened there...won't happen again. Sorry.

david said...

How can reporting ever be done by somebody not working directly on an account, let alone based in India? I don't get it..

Alan B-G said...

Frost & Sullivan, the technology market analysis company, already seems to have its main corporate communications in India -- the person there phoned and emailed to invite me to black-tie awards dinner at Le Meridien in London the other week. Seriously weird.

....the world's leading.... said...

"How can reporting ever be done by somebody not working directly on an account, let alone based in India? I don't get it.."

You might be right, but I've seen enough reports simply being the result of lots of team members chucking their actions/results/feedback on email to an AE, who then has the task of pulling it all together into the final report for the client...and then sometimes these reports are forwarded to another AE in the EMEA hub agency who has to re-fit them all into a consolidated report...

I'm sure that do be done more efficiently.

james warren said...

Sorry TWL, you must have the wrong man. I attended the Greater Swathorpe Preparatory School for Boys, as any fule no.

Simon said...

That's more like it!

Kasteera said...

Must admit I was fairly dubious and am still not wholly convinced but I can certainly see the potential for outsourcing coverage reports and collating coverage book.

In my first PR role I had to do monthly reports by looking at copies of faxes sent by the AD over the past month, anyone would have had the same amount of clue that I did about what was actually happening on the account.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Simon. Can we please stop all this silly 'corporate hand-wringing' and get back to taking the piss...???

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure what could be outsourced as far as India, however there is a strong arguement to suggest that PR work could be carried out just as effectively by individuals / agencies not tied to expensive Soho premises. With London house prices soaring and PR not being the best paid of professions, savings made on overheads could be passed on to the staff or clients.

....the world's leading.... said...

So, what are you suggesting? Keep all the brainy strategic and high-value people in the shiny London offices and move all the grunt workers to the countryside?

I find no fault with your argument.

Anonymous said...

You people are all talking as though 'PR' only exists within greater London. Have any of you ever been outside the M25...??

....the world's leading.... said...

It does though, doesn't it? I mean, in "real" terms. Just like, inside the M25 there are "farms". But they're not proper ones, they're just play ones, for kids. It's the same principle, just reversed.

But I joke, of course. We do travel outside the M25...we have clients there. And as long as there's a 1st class train ticket with our name on back to civilisation, then it's not a problem.

And, how silly of me to forget, we've all got second homes in the Cotswolds.

Anonymous said...

"So, what are you suggesting? Keep all the brainy strategic and high-value people in the shiny London offices and move all the grunt workers to the countryside?"

Not at all. The suggestion I was making was that PR work (both the senior and grunt stuff) could be done just as effectively by those in inexpensive out-of-town premises (or from their homes), putting them in position to compete on both price and quality with players in London (mostly), but also Manchester, Leeds, etc.

FT on 20th November had an interesting article on a management consultant firm called Eden McCallum that has taken this approach.

....the world's leading.... said...

But that would mean the best and brightest PR people in the land actively wanting to move away from the bright lights and opportunities of the finest city in the world, wouldn't it?

How's that going to happen? I just don't get it...move to "Manchester, Leeds, etc"...you mean...voluntarily?

Enough of this crazy talk. You'll be blathering on about the virtues of clean air and uncongested roads next. Tree hugger.

Anonymous said...

Can I just point out that the real value from this piece is not my esteemed colleague's PR talk but rather the tenuous link to Thomas Friedman who wrote about the Lexus and The Olive Tree and the more tenuous link to Sell the Lexus, Burn the Olive Tree which is the name of my band (and part of a book, I know) which can be found at www.myspace.com/sellthelexus. Sadly we split up last week and aren't now available for weddings etc. Still any publicity and all that...