#FutureAgency interview with Phil Campbell

What is the future for the Public Relations Agency industry?  The debate started across on Forbes, continued on FIR and we add our own suggestions from an interview taken for the source material for our book, “The Creative Agency of the Future“, being written now.

What is the future for the PR industry? We asked Phil Campbell, contributor and builder of cellar54

Questions: What are you doing differently in the past 2 years in….

Human resources

We are in desperate need to grow. We want the space to be a hive of activity with a variety of up and coming bloggers that can assist in promotion of events, learning about advocacy and equipment so they can be power houses in their own right when at events and become assets to the social media teams that are often now on the ground sharing the buzz from events. We simply could do a lot more if we had more of us assisting.

 

Client management

We handle our own calendars and touch base with them with regular newsletters about the various areas of the business from website updates, videos to share and tutorials and projects that we are undertaking.

 

Campaign organisation (job bags / project management)

We are very poor on this front in terms of project management at times. We work on bigger projects together but I find that I’m very easily side tracked by the ‘shiny shiny’ nature of the web and my concentration can lapse. We are aiming to put together more realistic deadlines to get our ideas shipped in some format instead of waiting for things to be perfected.

 

Operations management

Operations are dealt with on a person by person basis with both team members working independently with the clients they have found and coming together when a bigger project has to be realised and project managed. This makes the work we do very fluid and normally revolves around a production schedule in approach.

 

Finance

We have no loans currently. We operate on our advocacy retainers and any additional income that comes in will ultimately get fed back into the studio(s) – we have a number of product ideas that would help us and other companies wishing to do social media in house and at some point we will want to find a shared vision with an ethical standpoint to taking finance to realise these products.

 

Real estate

I needed a location with fast fibre connectivity. I knew that not having the ability to push regular content in a fast manner would be the difference in actively taking part in the early stages of developing ourselves as a location for rapid social media talkback. I found lace market house at the corner of Stone Street and high pavement in the creative quarter of the city.

We were lucky to win a contest from seedups.com an incubator in Ireland which helped us fund our rent and upgrades over the next two years going into 2013. Because we were actively putting out context from our studio space compared to a usual closed shop tenant the benefactor of the space got to know us a lot more and offered us better rates if we could barter our skills to be useful to the rest of the building.

Our fairly open nature has allowed us to become a drop in space for audio and video requirement needs from people within the city and position us in front of other businesses looking for social media advocates for their empty spaces within their buildings in the Nottingham area.

 

IT infrastructure

The owner of our building knew that he needed fast internet so he spent 40k to get fibre fitted.  It’s now 50mb and pushing to get 100mb.  Every time we get a speed bump we add more camera equipment, hard drive space and upgraded networking within the studio to build on the additional bandwidth.

 

Internal communications

We use Google docs, Evermark, Skype, Google hangouts, Dropbox, a lot of the production schedules are in Evernote.  And WP for pushing out the content.

 

Contracts 

We have a number of small business owners using our spaces to promote digital products and real world products. Our fast turnaround, fair pricing and free advice is allowing us to establish a relationship from a bartering perspective. Our advocacy work is a firmed up contract with the parent company done in six month chunks.

 

Business development

We have no business plan. We need one but we have not found a business plan that understands the ethical way we want to understand our value. Most business plans deal in growth and profit and that’s it. We want to make sure that our social business is powered by the people that what to work with us because of the ethics we keep rather than the profit we make. We believe in a shared wealth system and aim to put more into the local community to maintain and foster stronger connections while maintaining an income to live but being respectful of the community that put us there.

 

Knowledge management

We are scaling up and haven’t hit this wall yet. People need to understand what our spaces are about (we are very behind here and yet we still have managed to attract customers) we have a number of weekly shows that we manage that we record for free between client work and learning – we use this as a barometer and lead generation often — people mention it when they see us at speed networking events which then starts another conversation about the projects and services we are working on providing.

We are often at the ‘tsunami wave at the edge of knowledge’ for the digital sector and we see new technologies and faster ways of rapidly attracting audiences to our ideas that we speed quite a lot of time considering how we will talk to our external potential audiences.

 

Where do you go for information about how to improve the way you run your business?

The usual locations for me are blogs that my peers are creating or regular advocacy programs that they are actively involved in. The hardest thing is finding businesses that function in the way that we want too.

We are finding the social enterprise approach to business refreshing and so we hope to find similar social enterprises that have fresh thinking to share processes that are working well for them.

 

We listen to a lot of podcasts and videos from people actually making regular shows and content on iTunes.  We download these and consume them in our ‘dead time’ during journeys.

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